BMO Harris Bank is eliminating most mortgage loan officers who meet customers face to face and now directs people who want to buy a house or refinance to its centralized mortgage call center.

Overall in the banking industry, visits to branches — including consumers coming in for mortgage applications — are declining, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for the personal finance website That means fewer mortgage loan officers are needed in branches, he said.

Some other large banks doing business in Wisconsin, such as Associated Bank and U.S. Bank, still offer mortgage applicants an in-person meeting with a loan officer if they wish, and most smaller community banks do too.

Associated Bank also takes mortgage applications on the phone, online or in person at a branch, said Dave Bauer, director of mortgage sales.

"We're not envisioning any dramatic change like some others have announced. We like the way we're approaching it. It gives the customer that flexibility," Bauer said. "That said, a higher percentage of borrowers are applying online. Every year that goes up. But the majority still come through the branch channel."

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