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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 2/13/2013

Fifth Third mortgage program offers relief for customers

Delinquent borrowers assisted in job search

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The way Fifth Third Bank sees it, everybody loses when a home is foreclosed upon.

To help with the problem, the Cincinnati-based lender has expanded a pilot program it tested last year that offers free job-seeker services to borrowers who are out of a job and are at least two months delinquent on their mortgage payments.

The job search services, which are provided by NextJob Inc., of Klamath Falls, Ore., can last up to four months and can cost up to $1,500, but Fifth Third is picking up the tab.

“From a bank standpoint, one bank foreclosure can cost the bank $40,000 to $60,000, and our program can cost $1,500 per individual. So it’s really about how many people can we get through the program and how many can be successful and keep their homes because this has helped them find jobs,” said Debra DeCourcy, a Fifth Third spokesman.

Participation is limited to those whose payments are two months delinquent and have indicated to Fifth Third that the reason is job loss.

“If that is what they list, then we reach out and ask if they’d be interested in participating by sending them a letter,” Ms. DeCourcy said. If the borrower is interested, the bank sends an information packet with details on how to contact NextJob.

At that point, Ms. DeCourcy said, it is up to the borrower to decide whether to follow through with NextJob. The bank stops its involvement after sending the information packet.

“It’s kind of a touchy subject. We want this to be a program that the borrower takes on their own. We don’t want the borrower thinking the bank is looking over their shoulder,” Ms. DeCourcy said.

“[NextJob] lets us know from the standpoint of our success rate. But they don’t report back to us on the names of the borrowers.”

During last year’s pilot program, the bank sent letters to about 100 borrowers who were delinquent and had lost jobs. About 40 borrowers showed interest, and 28 actually sought services from NextJob.

Out of the 28, 11 people got jobs within the six-month trial period. Most of the 28 had been out of work 22 months or longer.

Fifth Third agreed in November to expand the program and offer the services to all of its borrowers who are two months delinquent and list job loss as the reason for falling behind.

Kristi Weigant, NextJob chief operating officer, said the services the company provides to job searchers are threefold — one-on-one job coaching, weekly Web-based seminars, and the company’s special training and job search tools.

“The one-on-one is done over the telephone and through Skype [Web video calls],” Ms. Weigant said. “The coach is matched to the job seeker via his experience, industry, work history, and personality.”

NextJob provides job preparation and mock job interviews, resume and cover letter preparation, job leads, and research, she said.

The Web seminars cover various job-hunting topics but also include a one-hour peer group “job club” session so that a job seeker can communicate and compare experiences with others in the same situation, Ms. Weigant said.

“Our goal is to get them back to work as quickly as possible in a job they’re excited about,” she said. “It takes more than just a good resume and job leads to get hired these days.

“It requires that one-on-one expert to walk you through the process. There are nuances that can make you or break you in the job search these days.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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