Northern Trust CEO sees more mortgage activity

By Becky Yerak
Posted yesterday at 12:59 p.m.

Northern Trust Corp., which caters to wealthy consumers, said it’s beginning to see more demand for mortgages as housing prices firm up.

“The mortgage pipeline is beginning to fill up,” Chief Executive Frederick Waddell told reporters Tuesday after his Chicago-based bank’s annual shareholder meeting. “There’s more interest in housing,” including refinancings.

“From buyers’ perspective, they think the market is bottoming out,” Waddell said.

Separately, Waddell acknowledged to shareholders that Northern stock lagged the appreciation of its peer group in 2010 by about 15 points.

But many peers in 2010 were rebounding from “significant” stock losses since the start of the financial crisis in late 2008, Waddell said.

Over a five-year period, only Goldman Sachs’ stock appreciation has surpassed Northern’s among larger financial firms, he told shareholders.

“We’re not happy with the performance of our stock on a relative basis,” Waddell said, while insisting, however, that Northern is “an outstanding investment” in the financial services industry.

Its shares were down 3.6 percent, at $49.55, at midday in Nasdaq trading.

No shareholders posed questions.    Despite having repaid its government bailout money, it kept in place the metal detector it began using at shareholder meetings after the financial crisis erupted.

Northern also serves institutions worldwide, and Waddell, who was in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, three weeks ago,  filled shareholders in on a new $1 billion account there, as well as winning much of the investment work for the American Bar Association.  In the Australia region, assets under custody at Northern have grown to $100 billion last year from $2 billion in 2006 and more rapid growth is expected there, he told shareholders.

Northern’s fund services unit will begin an advertising campaign May 1, the company later said.

This summer Northern will open a branch in the Washington, D.C., area, the fastest-growing millionaire market in the nation, Waddell told shareholders.

Also afterwards, he reiterated remarks made in February that Northern, Chicago’s biggest locally headquartered bank, has plenty of capital and intends to remain independent.

Twitter @beckyyerak

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