As part of its plan to expand retail business, the Charlotte, N.C.-based lender will hire over 750 loan officers during this year, Wachovia spokeswoman Jennifer Darwin told

“We wanted to double our mortgage sales force, which we think will convert us into the top-third mortgage originator.”

Wachovia’s volume of $58.2 billion in 2005 was the ninth-highest annual production reported by

The mortgage banker has been working on this goal since last year, when “we said we wanted to be a dominant lender in our footprint” — at which point it added about 450 loan officers. With a total mortgage staff of about 2,600 at the time, it was the 30th largest originator in staff rank. Currently, the mortgage workforce of about 2,800 includes 800 loan officers, according to the spokeswoman.

“We are expanding the retail side of our mortgage business,” thus “our focus right now is sales force,” Darwin said. “We see mortgages as a hook product in driving banking business overall.”

There are also growth plans for Wachovia’s direct lending business, which includes Internet sales, and for the wholesale unit. While Darwin could not disclose a number for such job additions, she did note the staff expansions will not be as large as in retail.

Wachovia recently purchased AmNet Mortgage Inc., which with a network of over 7,000 brokers and mortgage origination capabilities expected to push volume up to $15 billion from $9 billion in 2004.


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