Fifth Third helps distressed homeowners find jobs

Fifth Third Bancorp is rolling out a new program to help distressed borrowers find jobs.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third said Wednesday it signed a multi-year contract with NextJob, a Bend, Ore.-based reemployment company, to provide job search services for struggling Fifth Third mortgage customers.

Unemployed mortgage borrowers get help with a job search, including coaching, weekly webinars and access to online job search software, paid for by Fifth Third.

Fifth Third said it’s the first financial institution to do something like this. Fifth Third is the largest bank in the Cincinnati-Dayton region, and one of the largest mortgage lenders.

The program was tested in 2012 with unemployed bank customers in serious risk of default on their mortgages, the bank said. On average, participants had been out of work for 22 months. Nearly 40 percent of people in the pilot were fully employed after six months, a success rate that’s prompted Fifth Third to expand the program.

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“Up to half of mortgage delinquencies are due to job loss,” said Steven Alonso, head of Fifth Third Bancorp Consumer Bank, in a statement.

NextJob CEO John Courtney approached the bank with the idea, said Larry Magnesen, Fifth Third chief marketing officer.

“A foreclosure is the last thing banks want to do,” Magnesen said. “Banks lose money on foreclosures, so the idea that there would be something better for the borrower, (to) keep families in their home, and better for the bank, it convinced us it would be worth investing.”

Right now the program is by invitation only and meant for mortgage customers who start falling behind in payments because of job loss, Magnesen said.

People who participate get one-on-one job coaching over the phone for 16 weeks, he said. They also get technical advice, do interview role playing, discuss their skills and even get inspiration from NextJob’s experts. Participants also get access to online tools about resume writing, how to use social media to conduct a job search and online networking. There are group conference calls every week to talk about progress with their job hunts.

Meanwhile, the normal process continues on the loan, including loan modification and refinance options as eligible. Participation does not stop foreclosure if it becomes necessary.

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