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Edited Transcript of WMIH earnings conference call or presentation 25-Feb-20 2:00pm GMT

Q4 2019 Mr. Cooper Group Inc Earnings Call

SEATTLE Mar 10, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Mr. Cooper Group Inc earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Christopher G. Marshall

Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO

* Jay Bray

Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO

* Kenneth A. Posner

Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - SVP of Strategic Planning & IR

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Conference Call Participants

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* Bose Thomas George

Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD

* Douglas Michael Harter

Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director

* Henry Joseph Coffey

Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD of Equities Research

* Kevin James Barker

Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst

* Mark C. DeVries

Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Research Analyst

* Mark William Hammond

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Mr. Cooper Group's Fourth quarter Earnings Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) Please be advised that today's conference is being recorded. (Operator Instructions)

I would now like to hand the conference over to your speaker today to Ken Posner, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Investor Relations. Thank you. Please go ahead, sir.

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Kenneth A. Posner, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - SVP of Strategic Planning & IR [2]

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Good morning, and welcome to Mr. Cooper Group's fourth quarter earnings call. My name is Ken Posner, and I'm Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Investor Relations. With me today is Jay Bray, Chairman and CEO; and Chris Marshall, Vice Chairman and CFO.

As a quick reminder, we'll be referring to slides that can be accessed on our Investor Relations web page at investors.mrcoopergroup.com. Also, this call is being recorded. During the call, we may refer to non-GAAP measures, which are reconciled to GAAP results in the appendix to the slide deck.

And finally, during the call, we may make forward-looking statements. You should understand that these statements could be affected by risk factors that we've identified in our 10-K and other SEC filings. Further, we are not undertaking any commitment to update these statements if conditions change.

I'll now turn the call over to Jay.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [3]

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Thanks, Ken, and good morning, everyone, and welcome to our call. I'm going to start by reviewing the highlights of the quarter on Slide 6. We've reported net income of $461 million or $4.95 per share. These results included a $285 million benefit from releasing the valuation allowance against the deferred tax asset, a mark-to-market gain of $102 million and very strong pretax operating income of $125 million, equivalent to a 21% ROTCE.

Once again, the Originations segment produced excellent results with $138 million in pretax earnings on a record $12.6 billion in funded loans and a margin of 1.1%, which was right in line with the update we provided in December. The Servicing portfolio was stable during the fourth quarter, which demonstrated our ability to replenish the portfolio with Originations, as there were no bulk acquisitions in the quarter. In fact, there haven't been any bulk acquisitions since the first quarter.

Xome reported another solid quarter with pretax operating income increasing to $14 million, thanks to the strong momentum in the title unit, which is benefiting from refinances.

Finally, subsequent to quarter end, we called another $100 million of senior notes and issued $600 million in new 7-year notes, which allowed us to refinance the remaining maturities in 2021 and 2022. We were extremely happy with the market reception to this transaction. We had a 100% subscription rate following the non-deal roadshow. The deal ended up being 6x oversubscribed, and the notes were priced at record tight spreads for a single B rated financial services issuer. Since the WMIH bond issuance in 2018, our spreads have come in by roughly 200 basis points, which we take as positive feedback from the market on our progress executing against our strategic goals.

If you'll turn to Slide 7, I'd like to talk more about the company's strategic direction. As you recall, in our fourth quarter call last year, we told you we were going to take a pause from growth to focus on integration, deleveraging and improving profitability. And that's exactly what we've done. During 2019, we completed the integration of our 3 acquisitions, achieved our initial deleveraging target and significantly improved the company's overall profitability.

Now the question in your mind is what's next, and the answer is more the same. As the management team and Board of Directors have reflected on our market position and competitive strengths, we've developed a series of strategic pillars that will guide the next chapter of Mr. Cooper's story. The overarching goal is to drive the stock up to tangible book value or higher, and we'll do this by positioning the company for sustainable long-term growth and by generating consistent return on equity at or above our target of 12%.

The first priority under these strategic pillars is strengthening the balance sheet to ensure Mr. Cooper continues to serve as a source of strength for the U.S. housing and mortgage markets, even if the economic environment turns adverse. In this regard, we're planning over the next 2 to 3 years for the ratio of tangible net worth assets to increase to 15% or higher. We expect to grow into this ratio by prioritizing the use of cash flow to retire senior notes on an opportunistic basis.

A strong balance sheet also means robust liquidity. The $600 million refinanced transaction cleared out our maturities through July 2023, which leaves us with a liquidity runway of 3 and 1.5 years, which is a great position to be in should the environment deteriorate.

Now let's turn to Slide #8 and talk about the second major pillar of our strategic plan, which is to drive continuous improvement in our cost structure. Put simply, as we think about Mr. Cooper's business model, we believe that the key to profitability is continued improvement in productivity. We regard this pillar as essential to sustaining ROTCE in the face of headwinds such as the normalization of origination margins once capacity finally returns to the market.

You've heard us talk about Project Titan, which was an initiative designed to improve the customer experience and drive meaningful cost savings as well as how the Home Advisor team boost recapture rates and improves profitability. These are both examples of our focus on unit costs.

The 2 charts on this page show you that we've made progress here in recent years, but not enough. Moving forward, each of our business segments has a mandate to drive down unit cost by 5% per year, year in and year out. Unit cost numbers may move around from quarter-to-quarter due to mix changes or volumes and market conditions, but you should expect us to show progress here over time.

You've also heard us talk about corporate actions, which represent various opportunities to streamline overhead costs. These kind of initiatives will be ongoing.

Finally, I'll comment on the 3 other pillars, which relate to our customer and -- our customers and our talent. These pillars don't link exactly to ROTCE, our balance sheet metrics, but they are absolutely critical to all aspects of our business, and we'll update you from time to time when there are accomplishments or issues of note.

And on that note, I'll turn the call over to Chris.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [4]

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Thanks, Jay. Good morning, everyone. I'm going to start with a high-level review of our results on Slide 9. As you've seen, we reported net income of $461 million on a GAAP basis, which is equal to $4.95 per share. These results included the release of the valuation allowance against our deferred tax asset, which totaled $285 million. As you know, we assumed $6 billion of net operating losses in connection with the WMIH merger. And based on our projections at the time, we established a DTA of $1.2 billion with the allowance meant to cover a portion of the NOLs, which we estimated would expire unutilized. In conducting our 2019 year-end review of the DTA, we concluded that the allowance was no longer appropriate due to the company's improved profitability and the implementation of a prudent tax planning strategy. Based on the DTA carrying value at year-end, we expect to save $1.3 billion in federal tax payments over time, which means more cash for deleveraging, building liquidity or investing in growth.

Our GAAP results also benefited from a mark-to-market of $102 million, which I'll discuss in just a minute but, first, let's focus on pretax operating income, which was a healthy $125 million in the quarter, down from the record $171 million in the prior quarter as Originations' margins normalized. On a fully tax basis, this was equivalent to a 21.1% return on tangible common equity, which is well above our long-term target of 12%. In terms of adjustments, we excluded $6 million in severance charges, which were split evenly between Xome and corporate. And we expect to see a similar level of severance expense this quarter.

There were some other notable items in the quarter, which I'd like to point out. Servicing benefited from a $19 million recovery, which shows up as a reduction in expenses. Also, the corporate line included $7 million in costs associated with shutting down certain facilities and activities that are no longer core. This cost and the severance charges are part of the corporate initiatives we discussed with you last quarter, which were intended to streamline our operations and improve efficiency.

Now let's turn to Slide 10 and discuss the carrying value of our MSR portfolio and the $102 million mark-to-market gain booked in the quarter. The mark-to-market primarily reflected the 10 basis point increase in mortgage rates during the fourth quarter and the implications for slightly slower prepayment speeds, which you'll see in the 10-K as a decrease in the lifetime CPR assumption from 13.9% to 13.1%. Also, the move in the short end of the curve helped, implying a stronger outlook for net interest income. As a result of these changes, the value of the MSR portfolio increased from 109 to 118 basis points, which was similar to the change we've seen reported by others in the marketplace.

The current level of interest rates results in higher amortization expense in our servicing portfolio, but, at the same time, creates very favorable conditions for our DTC channel, which focuses on helping our existing customers refinanced. Taking a look at our portfolio, we estimate that 1.1 million of our customers or 28% of the total are in position to save roughly $200 per month if they refinance right now, which we estimate is the equivalent of a 2-year payback, which, for most people, is a pretty good deal. The sensitivity table shows you that absent a major rate move, we'd expect volume in our DTC channel to remain strong for the foreseeable future.

So let's turn to Slide 11 and talk about Originations, which, once again, contributed excellent results with pretax earnings of $138 million in the fourth quarter on record fundings of $12.6 billion. These results obviously reflect favorable market conditions, but they also point to the investments we've made in recent years, including the creation of our Home Advisor unit, the acquisition of Pacific Union as well as important but intangible factors like the culture of our people, who are disciplined operators and extremely innovative. As a result of this progress in Originations, our overall business model is more balanced and more profitable than it was in past cycles.

The margin remains strong at 110 basis points, which is right in line with the update we provided in December. As you know, we book revenues when the loan is locked and recognize expenses when the loan is funded. The third quarter margin of 132 basis points was unusually high because locks outpaced fundings. Whereas in the fourth quarter, locks and fundings are right in line with each other, which is why the margin dropped to a more normalized level. Since year-end, mortgage rates have declined by approximately 20 basis points and, as a result, we've seen another surge in lock volumes. During January, total funded volume was $4 billion while locks were starting to inch ahead at $4.1 billion. If this trend continues, then we would expect to see the margin to see some expansion.

Now let's turn to Slide 12 and review the Servicing portfolio. Total UPB ended the quarter at $643 billion, which was flat with the third quarter level and consistent with our guidance. Looking at the components of the portfolio, reverse and private label mortgages continue to run off, while subservicing grew nicely and the owned portfolio was largely flat. Despite elevated prepayments, we estimate our net replenishment rate held in right around 100%, which indicates that our Originations are, broadly speaking, sufficient to sustain the portfolio net of runoff attributable to co-investment partners without us having to pursue bulk MSR acquisitions. As Jay pointed out, that's pretty much what you've seen in 2019 since we haven't made any bulk acquisitions since closing the Seterus deal in the first quarter. As we entered 2020, we're planning for the total servicing UPB to be roughly flat. And whether we grow a little or shrink a little will probably depend on the performance of our subservicing partners.

And let's turn to Slide 13 and review the Servicing margin, which we'll discuss excluding the full mark. On this basis, the Servicing margin was 5.5 basis points, down from 5.8 basis points in the third quarter due to higher CPRs, which peaked at 19.1% during the quarter and which translated into much higher amortization. This pressure was offset by a $19 million recovery for a prior servicer associated with the portfolio we acquired several years ago. This benefit flows through as a reduction of foreclosure and other liquidation-related expenses, which you can see in the appendix to the deck.

The reverse portfolio is in runoff and not a material driver of results, but it does introduce some variability into the margin due to the timing of recoveries and the impact of interest rates on the accounting treatment of financing costs. As you can see from the chart, reverse contributed 0.3 basis points this quarter, down from 1 basis point in the third quarter.

Finally, I'd comment that the delinquency trend remains very favorable with 60-day delinquencies dropping to 2%.

Now turning to Xome on Slide 14. We were pleased with another solid quarter of performance with pretax operating income rising sequentially from $13 million to $14 million. The highlight of the quarter at Xome was strong refinance-driven order flow in our title unit. As we've commented previously, Assurant is now fully integrated, except for efforts related to onboarding some customers to our new platforms. That effort is on track and is being very carefully managed, and feedback has been very positive.

You'll notice that the proportion of third-party revenues dipped slightly from 53% to 51% in the fourth quarter. This reflects the typical seasonal slowdown in field services and should start moving up again later in the spring.

We announced in January that Mike Rawls has taken over as CEO of Xome. Mike is a highly respected member of our executive team, a 20-year veteran of the company and, for the last 5 years, he's led the Servicing operation. Mike brings vast experience and credibility to Xome and will play an instrumental role in revenue generation, as we compete to win new clients and cross-sell multiple services to existing clients.

We remain confident in the $50 million guidance in pretax operating income for 2020 that we've already shared with you. However, first quarter is typically a seasonal low point, so you'll likely see a dip in earnings next quarter.

Now let's wrap up on Slide 15 with a review of liquidity and capital. We ended the year with very strong liquidity, which allowed us to pay down operating lines by $90 million. And as some of you noticed, the FHFA recently came out with proposed new requirements for nonbank mortgage servicers. We are comfortably in compliance with these proposals. And if they're implemented, we don't expect any impact to our business.

Earlier this year, we shared with you an illustrative metric called steady state discretionary cash flow, which is the amount of cash available once we sustain the MSR asset at its current level, net of excess spread. For the fourth quarter, steady state cash flow was $129 million.

Now I'll reiterate Jay's comments on how pleased we were with the market reception to our senior notes issuance in January. As he pointed out, this transaction clears out our maturities through July 2023, providing us with a 3.5-year liquidity runway, which is a very good position to be in. As you'd expect, we're monitoring the market closely as we analyze alternatives for the 2023 maturities, which become callable in July of this year; and the 2026 maturities, which become callable next year.

Tangible net worth to assets was 11% at year-end. As Jay mentioned, we're managing the company toward a 15% or higher target. Now that's not a magic number, but rather reflects the capital planning process we've undertaken recently, which considered our current balance sheet and the results of our internal simulation and stress test models. Until we get closer to that range, we'll continue to prioritize retiring our senior notes and building liquidity over acquisitions. We believe that putting the strongest operating platform in the industry on top of a very strong balance sheet is a good strategy that will result in a sustainable 12% or higher return on equity and a stock price at or above tangible book value.

So with that, I'll turn it back to Ken for Q&A.

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Kenneth A. Posner, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - SVP of Strategic Planning & IR [5]

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Thanks, Chris. I'm going to ask our operator to start the Q&A session.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Bose George from KBW.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [2]

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Yes, let me just start with one on Servicing expenses. So even if we add back that $19 million that you guys called out, it looks like that the run rate for that line item would be $154 million, which is still down quite a bit from the third quarter. So is that a good run rate number? You've noted the Servicing portfolio is likely to stay flat in 2020? If that's the case, should we...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [3]

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Bose, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we're having a hard time hearing you. Could you...

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [4]

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Sorry. Is that better?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [5]

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Yes, it is.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [6]

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Okay. Great. The -- yes, I wanted to start with a question on Servicing expenses. So if we add back the $19 million that you called out, the run rate for that line item would be $154 million, which is still down from the third quarter. So I was just -- I wanted to get some color on how we should think about that line item going into next year. Is that a pretty good run rate?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [7]

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I think you should think of the run rate for Servicing to be at or about 5 basis points at a core, and it's going to vary off of that depending on onetime items, which happen quite frequently, and amortization, which has really peaked last quarter. So absent the onetime item, yes, the number would have been down by a modest amount because CPRs peaked at over 19%. And more normal, if you were to look at our Servicing margin over the last, I don't know, 8 quarters and excluded both the -- and I think we have a chart in the deck that we could go through with you. If you were to exclude onetime items and more -- and applied more normalized amortization, I think you'd see the number hanging in pretty steadily at about 5 basis points. So I think that's a pretty good outlook.

Now we do have a number of onetime items that we're always working on. And that very well could occur this quarter and, for that matter, every quarter this year, but I wouldn't want you to forecast them because the timing of them is very hard to estimate. Just like last quarter, we concluded a negotiation with a prior servicer for a portfolio we bought several years ago, and we've been working on that settlement for probably 2 years. So the timing of when these things come to closure, and we booked the results, very hard to predict. So again, I'd go back to assume 5 basis points, and that number will vary depending on amortization and those onetime items.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [8]

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Yes. And I think, Bose, if you look quarter-over-quarter, amortization was a big part of the story. I think it was up $11 million or $12 million from the third to fourth quarter. So I think that would explain a big piece of that. And to Chris' point, 5 is a reasonable number. I think we will have some onetime items. And candidly, from an operational standpoint, we're always looking for improvements as well, which could help that. And I think we've identified some that will flow in throughout the year. So I think that's how you should think about it.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [9]

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Okay. Great. And then just on the reverse segment, what's a normalized expectation from there, because that obviously seems to bounce around a little bit as well?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [10]

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Yes. I don't think we expect to see any contribution from reverse over the course of the year. The business is in runoff and, in fact, it may be slightly negative as we are continuing to try to right size the overhead with the dwindling asset base. The variability that we mentioned is just -- that's just related to the purchase accounting that occurred when we did the WMIH merger. And as we mark the bonds, those marks accelerate or slow down depending on interest rates. So you'll see a little bit of variability, but you should think of that as a business that will break even or maybe be slightly negative, possibly slightly positive. But as it's in runoff, I don't think that's going to change much for the next couple of years.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [11]

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Okay, that helps. And then just one last one. Historically, you guys, obviously, were, I guess, negatively impacted by the lower rates. Now you've grown the mortgage bank quite a bit. How would you characterize your position? Are you -- would you say you're neutral to rates? Or just what are your thoughts there just given the rally we've seen in rates?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [12]

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I would say -- I'm not sure I can give you an exact answer there. Going forward, I'd say if you look at what we did in over the last year, we weren't neutral and that our marks were higher than the operating profit that we generated out of our Origination segment, but that's really timing-driven. Over the long haul, we expect our Origination segment to benefit from lower rates and to recover those marks and then some, but I'm not sure if I'm -- I give you a definitive position on whether we're neutral or not because I think you're asking that within a very specific time period.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [13]

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Yes. I think, Bose, the way we think about it is the mark is going to happen. If you have an MSR mark, depending on where rates are at, it's going to happen at one point in time. And then the Origination business, obviously, is going to benefit from that for multiple quarters. And as Chris alluded, I mean, we're seeing an incredibly strong January in the Origination business, and we expect that to continue. So the way we think about it is the mark is it's kind of a onetime event. And then over the coming quarters, you're going to recover that through the Origination business. Is it dollar for dollar? Obviously, time will tell and timing associated with that, but that's how we're thinking about it.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [14]

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I think long term if you look at the 1.1 million customers that are in the money, so to speak, if rates stabilize, clearly, they're down this quarter. But if they were stable and we had 1.1 million customers that we could refinance, we'd certainly make a lot of money for the foreseeable future.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [15]

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Okay, that makes sense. And then my question was really the longer term because I understand the timing difference. But clearly, it looks like you're well positioned to benefit longer term from the move...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [16]

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Bose, I'm sorry. We're having trouble hearing you again.

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Bose Thomas George, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [17]

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Okay, sorry. I just was -- [sorry, but] my question was really the longer term benefit, because I understand the timing difference. But it does look like this -- the rally in rate should help you longer term. So that was the question.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [18]

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Yes, yes, that's accurate.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [19]

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Absolutely.

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Operator [20]

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Our next question comes from Doug Harter from Crédit Suisse.

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Douglas Michael Harter, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [21]

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Just thinking about your tangible net worth to assets test, how do you think about the reverse business in that context, kind of given that it grosses up the balance sheet, but it's not really a recourse asset? I guess how do you think about adjusting for that?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [22]

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Well, we think you can adjust for it. We haven't, but we agree with you that that's a very, very low-risk item and probably needs less capital allocated against it. But we're setting this as a long-term target. As the reverse book runs off, that will help contribute to hitting that target. We agree with your general premise, Doug.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [23]

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Yes. I think, Doug, we've always thought of that as kind of non-recourse, should -- it could be excluded. Our target is going to be total assets, but, clearly, I think you're thinking about it correctly.

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Douglas Michael Harter, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [24]

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Right. Because obviously if you exclude those assets today, you're already well above the 15%. So I mean I guess how quickly do those assets run off? And I guess, how should we, I guess, think about that runoff and relief from that?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [25]

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They're running off at about 20% a year. We expect that to continue.

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Douglas Michael Harter, Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division - Director [26]

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Got it. And then cash flow, you indicated that the 23 notes are callable in July. I guess how should we think about your thoughts on cash flow in the first half of the year until you have that callable event?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [27]

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I think cash flow is stable and solid. I think some of that will depend on what happens to the rates and our origination channel between now and the middle of the year, but we feel very good about our opportunity to refinance the 23s at very good rates.

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Operator [28]

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Our next question comes from Mark Hammond from Bank of America.

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Mark William Hammond, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [29]

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On Slide 8, you have that -- it's helpful, the Servicing cost per loan of $195 in 2019. So if delinquencies doubled, what could that number be per loan?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [30]

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I think I'd want to think about that rather than give you a number off the top of my head, Mark, but I don't have something right in front of me.

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Mark William Hammond, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [31]

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No problem. I can follow up on that. And then could you go into a bit more detail about why the 15% is the right number for tangible net worth to tangible assets as far as like what the stress test you did implied and how you arrived at 15%?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [32]

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I appreciate the question, and our comments did say that, that was a well-diverse stress test. Our stress test really said we were in pretty good shape, and that we would certainly survive a recession. But I think the bigger picture is as the largest nonbank servicer and a really trusted counterparty to Fannie and Freddie and the government, we just feel holding more capital is prudent. And as a market leader, again, I think it sounds -- this may sound a little trite, but we feel we have the best operating platform in the industry and putting that on an even stronger balance sheet, I think we'll signal to people, this is really a strong company that can generate sustainable returns into the future. And at the end of the day, that is what's going to drive improvement in our stock price. So that's really the basis for us setting that target.

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Mark William Hammond, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Associate [33]

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Got it. And then the last one, it -- just putting 2 and 2 together. So the discretionary steady state cash flow, which is helpful and great, if I put that together with your tangible net worth goal, you could pay down the 23s in 2 years with cash flow, roughly, if continuing at that state and get to your 15% goal. Is that the base case? Or is it refi or partial refi with a high-yield issuance more likely?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [34]

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Well, because we've got the 23s and then the 26s behind them, I think we look at them both as an opportunity. We do intend to continue to pay down debt. But if the market provides us an opportunity to smooth out our maturities and refinance at an attractive rate, then we would take that and we'll have more to say about that in the next couple of months.

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Operator [35]

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Our next question comes from Kevin Barker from Piper Sandler.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [36]

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So this is to follow up on Bose's question about the run rate on the Servicing expenses. It looks like the REO expense was a negative $28 million this quarter versus a positive $11 million and a run rate of roughly $23 million year-to-date. Specifically around REO, what was -- what else impacted that besides the $19 million recovery? And what would your expectation for the REO expense on a go-forward basis?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [37]

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I'm not sure I can give you a forecast or a reconciliation of that on the spot, Kevin. And $19 million was the biggest driver in that number, but I'm still okay with you, we'll follow-up with you off-line and give you a full reconciliation of it.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [38]

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Should REO expense...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [39]

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And beyond that, I expect the line to be stable, just because of credit trends are very muted. In fact, there -- our delinquencies are down, but I expect them -- that line to be stable for the rest of the year.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [40]

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So you expect -- so that would be negative, a negative...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [41]

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No, no, no, absent the recovery that we had in the quarter. But we'll give you a reconciliation following the call.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [42]

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Okay. And then was there any trust collapses like you've had in previous quarters coming through this quarter as well?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [43]

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No. We do not have a trust collapse.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [44]

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Okay. And then your MSR mark was in line with most of the industry this quarter at 9 basis points, give or take, and -- but the markdown throughout the year was less severe. Was there anything in particular within the portfolio that shifted throughout this year that have caused the MSR marks throughout the year to be less severe compared to most of the industry?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [45]

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No. I think the answer would be no.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [46]

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Okay. And then regarding the FHFA's new liquidity and capital requirements, do you expect any impact on how you manage the balance sheet, whether it's additional lines of credit or sources of liquidity or just, in particular, around the FHA (sic) [FHFA], which seemed a little bit more severe? It doesn't seem like there's anything in particular that stands out just given your balance sheet, but...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [47]

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No. I don't think there's anything particular. I'd say we -- long before these requirements came out, starting at the beginning of the year, we significantly expanded our EBO program. And I think you should expect that we'll be more active in buying out loans to manage -- just have a better financing answer to certain delinquent loans. But beyond that, there's no change. And with regard to the FHA (sic) [FHFA] requirements, I think it's interesting they came out with them, but our own internal policies actually requires to hold liquidity and cash at higher levels. So there's no impact to our business. But I think it's an interesting announcement and would be interesting to see if anything else follows that.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [48]

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Okay. And then on your UPB roll-forward in the Servicing portfolio from Page 23 of the presentation. Transferred to subservicing, did you receive compensation for the move to subservicing? Or was that just part of some of the portfolios that you bought previously?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [49]

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Transfers to subservicing -- I'm sorry, would you...

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [50]

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$9.5 billion worth of UPB that was in the forward-owned servicing that was transferred to subservicing?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [51]

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Yes. We sold a pool and are subservicing it until the actual transfer.

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Operator [52]

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Our next question comes from Henry Coffey from Wedbush.

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Henry Joseph Coffey, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD of Equities Research [53]

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You gave us some -- a sense of January and made some positive comments on likely margins. I'm assuming you've had a decent sense of what February is all about as well. With the coronavirus, with the distraction from the election in the south and the Super Tuesday states sort of, et cetera, what does the housing mortgage equation look like from your perspective? Is it still as strong as it was before everyone started talking about coronas? Or...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [54]

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Yes. I don't want to -- No, I think we haven't seen any impact. Certainly, we're aware like everybody else is watching the headlines and watching the market yesterday. But in terms of refinanced activity, our pipelines remain very, very strong. Margin is very solid. And with the rate move yesterday, we'll see how that plays out in mortgage rates. So it's too early to tell. But I think prior to that, we were already expecting the quarter to be very strong.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [55]

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Yes. Even if Henry locks, even prior to yesterday with -- we were having locks at all-time highs. I mean we continue to have very, very strong days from a performance standpoint.

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Henry Joseph Coffey, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD of Equities Research [56]

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So the trend in February was quite as good as January or some version thereof?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [57]

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Yes, yes.

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Henry Joseph Coffey, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - MD of Equities Research [58]

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And then in terms of where your customers are thinking, I mean, is it refinanced and there are people living, breathing people out there that haven't figured out they could refinance their mortgage? Is it improving credit, where the people are finally able to take advantage of the rate? Is it purchase money? What's really driving the equation?

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [59]

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It's a combination, right? I think it's still -- majority is rate-term refi. To your point, there's people that are coming back again. There's people that never have refinanced. There's some of its credit [cures]. And we've always had a strong capability in cash out kind of debt consolidation piece as well, but that's probably 20%...

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [60]

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35%.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [61]

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30% of what we're doing today. So it's a cross section of what's going on in the market. I mean, as you know, appreciation has been very strong. So you still are seeing a reasonable amount, call it, 1/3 that are doing the debt consolidation cash-out product. But the remainder is rate term. And those are folks that have never done a refinance in the past or coming back again.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [62]

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And it may surprise you that people haven't taken advantage of that opportunity yet. But again, we have 1.1 million customers. Nearly 30% of our customer base could refinance today and save $200 a month, and that's not taking into account people that could save even more through debt consolidation. So there's still huge opportunity for people to cash in on this refi loan.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [63]

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And we're really -- I mean origination machine is just honing, right? We made the investments. We didn't talk about that as much last year because we focused on tight and a lot of servicing, but we've made investments in the Origination business through the Home Advisor program that we've talked about, through our sales desk, which is a tool that allows all of our loan officers and home advisers to really work with the customer in a very efficient manner to give them the right product. It gives them all the options they need really at their fingertips. So we're seeing -- that's resulted in really 2 things. One, it's reduced our costs to originate by over $1,000 last year, and it also has resulted in just a more efficient, better customer experience. And frankly, we don't have to hire many folks because we just got the right tools.

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Operator [64]

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Our next question comes from Mark DeVries from Barclays.

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Mark C. DeVries, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Research Analyst [65]

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I think as you mentioned, your gain-on-sale margins are benefiting from capacity constraints across the industry. Can you just talk about what you're seeing from competitors in terms of adding capacity? Is everyone remaining relatively disciplined here? And just thoughts for implications in the intermediate term for the margin.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [66]

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Well, we'd go back to what we told you last quarter. It remains the same that we expect the margin to normalize over the course of the year. We do see people adding capacity, and we expect them to continue to add capacity. So eventually, gain-on-sale margins will come in. It's just a matter of when. So we expected the margin to normalize more in the first quarter, and we haven't seen that. So we're not hoping for it. We're not -- but we expect it. And beyond that, I wouldn't give you any more specific forecast. We actually expected to see normalization occur in the fourth quarter, and it didn't happen. So...

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [67]

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It feels to me like I was with a few of our peer CEOs last week at a conference, and it does appear to me, at least on the nonbank side, I don't really have a great view into the banks, but there is more discipline this time around. I mean folks are adding capacity. I mean we're still adding capacity, but it's not significant. And so it feels to me that -- to Chris' point, at some point, I'm sure there will be more capacity in place. But I do think people are definitely being more disciplined than we've seen in the past.

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Mark C. DeVries, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - Director & Senior Research Analyst [68]

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Okay. That's helpful. And it sounds like these new FHFA requirements for nonbank servicers isn't really going to impact you materially, but any thoughts on whether it could impact other nonbank servicers? And if so, could that create some opportunity for you guys to get active again, doing some bulk acquisitions?

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [69]

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I think it will impact some. And I think they've run some analysis and -- across their servicing population. So they know the folks that it will impact. I don't think it's a significant number, but clearly, there's going to be a category that, that will be impacted. Anyhow will that present opportunity? I think our focus is, like we've been saying, focus on the core. We think we've got the best operating platform out there. I think we've got a lot of momentum in the Origination business, a lot of momentum in the Servicing business. We know we're going to take out. We're still, I think, early to middle innings of taking costs out. So it's -- I want to focus, focus, focus on the core. And if you think about what would be available in the marketplace, I don't know that -- it would have to be something pretty special, right? Some capability that we do not have, and I just don't know what that would be at this moment in time. We got a long runway of opportunity, a long runway on these strategic pillars. So I'm pretty happy about where we're at and continuing to grow the profitability of the business and the return on the business.

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Operator [70]

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Our next question comes from Kevin Barker from Piper Sandler.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [71]

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Yes. I just wanted to get an update so far this quarter on where your prepay speeds are coming in, given the move-in rates. I know it's been -- have been pretty volatile here recently, but just trying to get a feel for prepay speeds versus the 18% that was running in the fourth quarter?

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [72]

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We expected them to be modestly down this quarter, and they are modestly down, but they're still elevated. I don't have the exact number through the quarter, but I'll just leave it at that. They're down modestly from where they were in the fourth quarter.

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Kevin James Barker, Piper Sandler & Co., Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [73]

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Okay. So would the lock volume that you're projecting in January be driven mostly by correspondent? Or would that be due to consumer-direct volumes driving most of the increase in volume?

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [74]

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--

It's -- I was quite a consumer-direct -- very focused on the consumer-direct piece. So the lock increase is all consumer-direct that I'm speaking.

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Christopher G. Marshall, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Vice Chairman & CFO [75]

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Primarily.

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Operator [76]

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I show no further questions in the queue. At this time, I'd like to turn the call over to Jay Bray, Chairman and CEO, for closing remarks. Please go ahead.

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Jay Bray, Mr. Cooper Group Inc. - Chairman, President & CEO [77]

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Thank you. And thanks, guys, for joining us, and we'll be available for questions later. Have a great day. Appreciate it.

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Operator [78]

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Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.