Freedom Financial bucks trend, expands into downtown

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At a time when many businesses are battening down the hatches, Freedom Financial Services has entered a growth mode.

Between 2007 to 2008, the company nearly doubled its loan volumes to become the largest overall mortgage lender in southern Colorado. Last year, it was the largest locally owned mortgage company in southern Colorado, according to President Roy Clennan.

The company, which also has offices in Oklahoma, California and New Mexico, made $1 billion in mortgage loans in 2009, with 80 percent of that total originating in Colorado.

All that business created a need for more space.

As a result, the mortgage company recently signed a lease on 4,393 square feet on the first floor of the U. S. Olympic Committee headquarters building at Tejon Street and Colorado Avenue.

Freedom will maintain its two other branches in the Chapel Hills Mall and at Union and Academy boulevards.

Since 1998, the mall location has worked well, Clennan said, because it’s open until 9 p.m., allowing people to stop by while they’re out shopping, have a cup of coffee and ask questions in a “no-pressure” environment.

In 2006, the company expanded, moving into the 16,000-square-feet space at Union and Academy. Clennan didn’t imagine the company would need to move again after that, but a recession proved him wrong.

Over the past three years, many mortgage companies suffered drops in loan volume or went out of business. Now, there are fewer players in the industry, and Freedom is there to take up the slack.

“We never did the exotic loans, so our volume is still increasing,” Clennan said.

In addition to needing more space, Clennan said it’s a good business move because so many people work downtown.

The main challenge for the company, he said, will be maintaining the same level of service.

“It’s never as easy as saying we’ll just duplicate what we already have,” he said.

His son, Rob Clennan, who has been branch manager at the Union Boulevard location, will be branch manager at the new location and oversee the construction, including the build-out of 15 or so offices, conference rooms, signing rooms and several open areas.

Clennan hopes to be open by Nov. 1 and employ about 21 people at the new location. He plans to hire 12 to 15 people in the next year.

“It’s not cheap to be downtown,” he said, but expects that it will pay off with increased foot traffic and a new customer service model that allows people to stop by at the beginning and end of their lunch time, and walk away knowing whether the company has a product that will meet their needs.

Clennan attributes the company’s growth to marketing, consistency and being in the community since 1995.

“The mortgage business is a very emotional business. We’re smaller; it’s more important to us — and people like to deal with local companies.

During the first year, he expects loan volume at the new location to range between $12 million and $15 million.

“It’s a demographic we haven’t hit before,” Clennan said.

Security Service on the move

Security Service Federal Credit Union has acquired Norbel Credit Union of Fort Collins.

Along with the Fort Collins branch, Security Service adds Norbel offices in Broomfield, Longmont, Loveland and Greeley to its network of service centers.

Based in San Antonio, Texas, Security Service is the third largest credit union in Colorado, and has been operating in the state since 1980. It holds more than $5.6 billion in assets and has 760,000 members.

About one-third of the credit unions’ members are in Colorado. The acquisition of Norbel adds more than 16,000 members and $120 million in assets to the credit union.

Security Service has service centers in Colorado Springs, Denver, Aurora, Pueblo and Fountain.

Security Service has also joined the nation’s largest credit union ATM network, the CO-OP Network, where members can withdraw cash surcharge-free at 28,000 ATMs nationwide.

CO-OP Network ATMs can be found in retail locations such as Costco, 7-Eleven, Walgreens and military bases throughout the United States.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229. Friend her on Facebook.