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Lending meets job hunting

When someone loses a job, personal financial pressures -- like keeping up with the mortgage -- can intensify.

So imagine if the bank, instead of getting on you about your mortgage payment, offered to help you to find a new job.

It's an approach M&T Bank Corp. is trying out over the next year, with a limited number of its mortgage loan customers.

M&T will invite, at random, 150 of those customers who have lost their jobs and are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments to use the services of NextJob, a firm based in Oregon that helps people find jobs. M&T will pay for NextJob's services. The pilot program will run until November 2014.

M&T borrowed -- to use a banking term -- the idea from Ohio-based Fifth Third Bank, which started using NextJob's "Homeowner Re-employment Program" last year. Customers who were in the initial pilot program had been out of work for about 22 months. After completing NextJob's training, nearly 40 percent of the participants were fully employed within six months, according to M&T.

M&T liked those results and decided to give it a shot, said Ann Schlifke, vice president of corporate communications for M&T's mortgage and customer lending division.

Schlifke noted that M&T is offering the NextJob services to its customers, but is not requiring them to participate. "They have to take the step to sign up. We don't want it to seem like we're forcing them to do anything."

Schlifke said NextJob helps participants create a detailed job-search plan, including uncovering job opportunities, putting together an effective cover letter and resume, using the latest in Internet tools and techniques, and preparing for job interviews.

Participating in the program doesn't guarantee someone will get a job, or prevent M&T from taking any action with the customer's mortgage loan at some point.

M&T has just started using the program. "So far, the feedback we're getting is it's a welcome tool for our borrowers to be using," Schlifke said.

-- Matt Glynn

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