The company's latest retreat from banking came on Wednesday, when MetLife announced that it would try to sell the majority of its mortgage business, keeping only the mortgage servicing and reverse mortgage origination functions. A sale would put an end to the company's stated ambition to rival the big four banks in originations. It also removes yet another funding source for independent brokers and marks a setback for Brian Hale, a former Countrywide executive who was brought on to build MetLife's residential lending business.

"Given the regulatory environment, multi-state licensing and buying loans from third-party channels, I can see their point," about getting out of mortgages, says Rob Chrisman, a 25-year industry veteran who writes a blog about the business. Other industry experts say MetLife likely had given up on its original strategy of trying to cross-sell mortgages with insurance products.

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