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DALLAS-Whether large or small, financial services companies are finding ways to adjust to the rocky market. Dallas-based BMC Capital LP, like others, has dropped a handful of underwriters in the local office while staying focused on continued growth, which includes a possible bank buy.

“We obviously have tried to be prudent in making sure we have the appropriate staff for the appropriate area,” Jonathan Morris, president of BMC Capital, stresses to GlobeSt.com, responding to an inquiry about a rumored double-digit layoff in its origination ranks in Dallas. “We have to make sure we have the right people in the right places.”

Morris says “a handful” of underwriters has been eliminated–a fact that’s been confirmed by one of the laid-off workers. BMC’s policy is not to disclose the size of its ranks, but both say it’s substantially less than the rumored number of 20.

“I’m not going to say there were no changes in the underwriting group, but I don’t want to get too specific,” Morris says, adding the head count can fluctuate monthly. “We are continuing to hire and we are hiring in support roles and core mortgage and origination lines.”

Despite the financial markets’ turmoil, Morris says he’s placed a letter of intent and is 45 days into due diligence to acquire a Texas bank as part of this year’s growth plan. “We’ve taken lender-risk for years on deals,” he says. “It’s a great opportunity to buy a bank right now. If you’re going to buy a bank, this is the time to do it.” He adds that the deal will close this year if it clears due diligence hurdles.

Meanwhile, BMC origination offices have just opened in Providence, RI and San Francisco. Morris says talks are underway to open four more offices in the US, which would bump the BMC chain to 26 locations to deepen its 50-state coverage area. “This environment has made it easier to hire good loan officers,” he says, pointing out that the last two hires came from the ranks of New York City-based Lehman Brothers and Seattle-headquartered Washington Mutual Inc.

BMC’s right-sizing move pales in comparison to other financial services companies in the struggle to survive the subprime debacle. But, the employee rebalancing acts are on target with the times. In the Federal Reserve’s April 16 Beige Book report, economists cited business leaders’ concerns that negative economic reports will affect future activity in all circuits. “A high level of uncertainty has led some firms to pare down investment and be cautious about staffing levels,” the Fed concluded.

BMC’s niche is originating loans from $500,000 to $5 million–and there’s no plan to change the focus, according to Morris. In the Beige Book, economists point out that loans are being put to tougher scrutiny to be sure they are well-collateralized, with more caution being exercised on real estate and mortgage loans. “Financial-service firms are cautious about lending, but competition remained stiff for deposits and quality loans,” the Fed said. “Net interest margins are being squeezed, particularly for small- to mid-size financial institutions and many respondents say they cannot take deposit rates much lower.”

Calabasas, CA-based Countrywide Financial Corp., which has cut thousands of jobs just like several competitors, is a prime example of just how bleak the financial markets are, with the company reporting a net loss of $893 million or $1.60 per diluted share. Last year, Countrywide reported a net income of $434 million or 72 cents per diluted share at Q1′s close. On the bright side, the lender’s mortgage loan production sector showed $232 million of Q1 pre-tax earnings versus a $507-million loss in the prior quarter. That and its Balboa Life & Casualty insurance business did show gains, but they were offset by $3 billion of credit-related costs during the quarter, according to yesterday’s report to the market.

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