By Andy Owens
Published May 7, 2010
The CEO of a Wisconsin-based mortgage company says his firm has entered the Charleston market — with plans to expand — by hiring the management team of a struggling local company.
Waterstone Mortgage Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Waterstone Bank SSB, is a residential lender with offices in nine states. The company’s new office on Daniel Island is its first location in South Carolina, said Eric Egenhoefer, president and CEO.
“We’ve been looking at that market as being very stable as far as home price,” Egenhoefer said. “We feel there is a growth opportunity for us in Charleston.”
Waterstone absorbed the management team, employees and Daniel Island office of Daniel Island Mortgage Co. when it could no longer compete in the market and would have closed, he said.
Egenhoefer said Waterstone was so impressed with Gary Harwyn (pictured) and his team that the company saw a chance to infuse capital and resources into the location and enter the Charleston market under the Waterstone brand. Daniel Island Mortgage Co. has been in business since 2004.
“We’re bringing him all the tools he’s never had,” Egenhoefer said. “He’s going to be running Charleston for us. He’s the management of that region.”
Waterstone hopes to help Daniel Island Mortgage capitalize on being the nation’s first myEnergyLoan local provider. Harwyn led the effort for the mortgage program, which facilitates financing for home buyers, sellers, investors and contractors interested in sustainable design, construction and retrofitting for energy efficiency.
“We felt like there was a competitive advantage for us to enter that space,” Egenhoefer said. “Gary Harwyn, in particular, has been an advocate for the green energy loan. So we’re interested in helping him expand that through Charleston.”
Harwyn, the former president of Daniel Island Mortgage Co., said Waterstone was a smart, powerful leader that could dramatically increase the company’s ability to serve Charleston. He said Daniel Island Mortgage Co. had not closed when the Waterstone partnership happened, but he said it was becoming difficult to compete in the current economic environment.
“We were looking to integrate with a more powerful entity,” Harwyn said. “I recognized that I wanted to serve our market in a different way. I felt like we needed to enhance the platform that we’re on.”
Harwyn, who is serving as Waterstone’s branch manager on Daniel Island, attended Mortgage Revolution, an event in Atlanta designed to bring loan officers together to share ideas, and met representatives of Waterstone, which was presenting at the event. Harwyn said that using the financial backing of Waterstone Bank gives the company the advantage of offering the power of a bank and the flexibility of a mortgage broker.
“Waterstone has really captured for me the best of both worlds, economies of scale, technology and a platform to grow my business on,” Harwyn said.
Egenhoefer said the demographics of Charleston and the relative stability of the home market, including value and prices, made Waterstone decide to make the move. He said the company plans to cover the entire region with products and services.
“Charleston is not oversaturated with mortgage companies the way a lot of other markets are,” he said. “Definitely, we are looking to expand.”