Whither Mr. Cooper? When is Nationstar’s rebranding actually going to happen?

Lending

Earlier this year, Nationstar Mortgage confirmed what HousingWire first speculated on in December then reported in January – that the company would be launching a massive rebranding effort, combining its originations and servicing business under the name Mr. Cooper.

But, since officially confirming the Mr. Cooper name change in February, Nationstar has been noticeably quiet on when the name change would actually take place.

In February, Nationstar disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that the company’s board approved a plan to begin using the Mr. Cooper name in the summer of 2016. Nationstar also dedicated an entire slide in its fourth quarter earnings presentation to Mr. Cooper and what it meant for the company.

And Nationstar CEO Jay Bray spoke extensively about Mr. Cooper during the company’s February call with investors, saying “(rebranding to Mr. Cooper) represents a more personal relationship with a home loan provider and aligns the entire company behind this spirit of customer advocacy.”

But, in its most recent two earnings releases and subsequent conference calls with investors, Nationstar has not mentioned Mr. Cooper or its rebranding efforts. Not even once.

Well, as the calendar ticks towards fall with seemingly no movement on the Mr. Cooper front, at least officially, it begs the questions: Is Nationstar actually going to rebrand to Mr. Cooper or not? And if so, when?

One note of caution: It’s not as though Nationstar hasn’t made Mr. Cooper-related moves in the months since confirming the name change.

Nationstar opened an online store (then quickly closed it after HousingWire revealed it) for Mr. Cooper-branded materials in January. And last month, HousingWire reported that Nationstar launched a barebones MrCooper.com with some details about the brand and what the company wants the brand to signify.

The website featured a series of branding messages, identifying what the company’s goals are for Mr. Cooper, and a video that also conveyed a similar message.

“We’re changing a lot more than our name,” the website stated. “We’re changing the entire home loan experience.”

But after HousingWire revealed MrCooper.com, the company took the website offline, with a spokesperson providing the following statement about MrCooper.com:

“As you know, we’ve been exploring the use of Mr. Cooper as a brand,” the Nationstar spokesperson said in a statement to HousingWire. “The site you are referring to is a test site for a landing page which, if launched, is designed to showcase the customer focused elements of the brand and answer frequently asked questions for our customers.”

Looking back at it, the spokesperson’s use of the word “exploring” is somewhat telling, considering some of the company’s other messaging about its rebranding efforts.

As stated previously, in each of Nationstar’s last two official earnings communications to investors, whether in its earnings statements, accompanying conference calls or supplementary presentations, or in any of Nationstar’s recent SEC filings, there’s been no mention of Mr. Cooper.

Not in Nationstar’s first quarter earnings statement (link here), nor in its related slide presentation (link here), nor in its first quarter conference call (as captured and transcribed here by Seeking Alpha).

And not in Nationstar’s second quarter earnings statement (link here), nor in its related slide presentation (link here), nor in its first quarter conference call (as captured and transcribed here by Seeking Alpha).

The company’s accompanying 10-K and 10-Q filings with the SEC provide a little more information, and perhaps a clue into whether Mr. Cooper is actually happening or not.

In Nationstar’s 10-K for its final fiscal results for 2015, filed with the SEC on March 1, 2016, the company stated the following about Mr. Cooper:

In January 2016, the Company’s Board of Directors approved the plan to change the brand name for the Company’s servicing and origination business to Mr. Cooper in the summer of 2016. Therefore, Greenlight trade name is not expected to be used by the Company after June 2016, and the Company revised the useful life of Greenlight trade name to six months and started amortizing it over the period from January to June 2016, which is the revised remaining useful life. Greenlight trade name’s carrying value as of December 31, 2015 was $13.7 million.

In Nationstar’s 10-Q filing with the SEC for its first quarter financials, the company noted some increased marketing expenses during the quarter as part of its “branding efforts.”

But in the company’s 10-Q filing with the SEC for its second quarter financials, filed Tuesday morning, the company’s phrasing around its marketing expenses is different, and perhaps telling:

Other corporate income for the three and six months ended June 30, 2016 was lower than the same periods in 2015 primarily due to an increase in marketing expenses related to the company’s potential rebranding efforts.

General and administrative expenses increased due to higher REO losses in the legacy portfolio and an increase in marketing expenses related to the company’s potential rebranding efforts.

“Potential rebranding efforts” is a far cry from the official confirmation that Nationstar provided in February or the grandiose vision Bray (or the defunct MrCooper.com) laid out for the new brand.

Nationstar did note in its second quarter slide presentation that the company plans to launch a “completely new and greatly enhanced customer website” in September and plans to launch a “premier mobile application” during the fourth quarter of this year.

During Bray’s call with investors, he spoke of the website and the app and what each will add to the experience the company provides to its customers.

“We have spent significant time and energy working with our customers to design a new easy to navigate customer Web site. In redesigning the Web site we went beyond just assisting a customer in managing their mortgage, instead we are utilizing the services, data and technology across all of our businesses to make the customer a smarter homeowner,” Bray said last week, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

“Building off of the Web site we also will launch mobile apps in the fourth quarter that will deliver a great customer experience,” Bray continued. “Sign on functionality that simplifies the authentication process, more useful notifications, calendaring payment reminders and camera functionality are just a few of the potential enhancements that will come with the launch of our integrated mobile app.”

When asked by HousingWire whether the new website and app were related to Mr. Cooper, a Nationstar spokesperson provided the following statement:

“On our journey to becoming the benchmark in customer service, we’re constantly looking for new opportunities to improve the customer experience,” the spokesperson said. “We’re very excited by some of the features we’ll be rolling out in September and October including a new website. We know our path to becoming Mr. Cooper can’t happen overnight so we are focusing on embracing the spirit of customer advocacy Mr. Cooper represents in the interim.”

To that end, the spokesperson said that Nationstar is focused on the onboarding of almost 500,000 new mortgage servicing customers that the company plans to add this year as part of two new servicing deals.

Last week, Nationstar disclosed in its second quarter earnings that it agreed to two new subservicing agreements with USAA and Seneca, which will bring almost half a million new customers to Nationstar’s servicing portfolio.

And bringing those customers into the fold without any hiccups is the company’s focus right now, not the name change, Nationstar’s spokesperson said.

“There are a lot of factors that determine the timing of a roll out as significant as a brand name change,” Nationstar’s spokesperson said. 

“Most important, and as you know, we have announced two new subservicing agreements with USAA and Seneca. We are honored that they choose us as their servicing partner and look forward to welcoming nearly 500,000 additional customers by the end of 2016,” the spokesperson continued.

“With that in mind, we are focusing exclusively on ensuring our new and current customers have a seamless and excellent customer service experience and are holding off on moving forward with the rollout of a new brand name until the timing is right for every customer we serve,” the spokesperson added.

Nationstar’s spokesperson also said that the brand name change is only one of dozens of “major changes” the company is making to provide the “best customer experience,” adding that the company is “making great progress” on those changes and is therefore not focused on a specific date for the brand name change.  

While that’s the official company line, one source tells HousingWire that some Nationstar employees are beginning to question whether Mr. Cooper is going to actually happen at all, citing potential issues with regulators as a significant hurdle to changing the company’s name.

So, back to the original questions: Is Nationstar actually going to rebrand to Mr. Cooper or not? And if so, when?

The Magic 8 Ball answer, for now anyway: Ask again later.

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