Accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen buys mortgage compliance consultant

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2014 - 9:27 PM

The move by CliftonLarsonAllen reflects a scramble among financial services firms to be able to comply with new mortgage rules.

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CliftonLarsonAllen bought a mortgage compliance company, a reflection of the efforts by accounting and other financial service firms to prepare for tougher mortgage rules.

CliftonLarsonAllen, one of the Twin Cities’ largest accounting firms, said Thursday it has acquired Bankers Advisory Inc., a Boston-area mortgage compliance consultant, in a move to beef up its ability to help lenders comply with complex new mortgage rules taking effect Jan. 10.

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed, but Bankers Advisory head Anna DeSimone described the acquisition as a structured buyout.

Bankers Advisory will remained based in the Boston suburb of Belmont and keep its name, she said, and she will be a principal at CliftonLarsonAllen.

Bankers Advisory focuses on mortgage quality control. It employs about 40 people, including a dozen lawyers, DeSimone said, and most of its 100 clients are banks and credit unions. Among them are Zions Bank and Bank of Oklahoma.

Minneapolis-based CliftonLarsonAllen described Bankers Advisory as “the go-to resource” for mortgage companies needing help with quality control testing, training and federal and state compliance.

Many smaller mortgage lenders simply don’t have the staff and systems to handle the required changes, said Jerry Felicelli, in charge of CliftonLarsonAllen’s financial institutions group. Felicelli said his group currently has more than 200 professionals, and that the addition of Bankers Advisory will strengthen its mortgage loan compliance services.

“It’s an ever-growing area of opportunity for us,” he said.

Pete Mills, senior vice president at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said it seems “fairly novel” to have a CPA firm acquire a mortgage quality control company. But preparation for the new mortgage rules has been a boon for vendors.

“It has been sort of this mad scramble to get your systems upgraded,” Mills said. “All of the compliance stuff ends up being a systems issue.”

The new rules affect nearly every step of the mortgage process, from making home loans to servicing them and foreclosures. At the heart of the change is the Qualified Mortgage Rule requiring lenders to fully assess a borrower’s ability to repay. For instance, the borrower’s total monthly debt-to-income ratio, including the mortgage payment, cannot be more than 43 percent.

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