Affinity Technology Group Inc., the company that pioneered the concept of the automated loan machine, has hired a new president and chief executive officer.
With little to show for its considerable marketing efforts, the Columbia, S.C., company appointed Murray Smith, 54, to those posts. Founder Jeff Norris, who had held them, became a director.
"It is a normal sort of thing in technology companies to transition from a visionary-entrepreneur-leader to a manager-type," said Mr. Smith, former chief marketing officer of Avco Financial Services in Irvine, Calif.
Mr. Smith left Avco in 1987 to establish Adaptive Decision Systems, Andover, Mass., a developer of credit and behavior scoring systems. It built a fraud detection system for Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter & Co.'s Discover card.
Affinity has struggled to establish itself in financial services, despite high-profile contracts last year to provide personal and auto loan decision-making technology to Citicorp and Dime Savings Bank of New York. Affinity's automated loan machine-ALM-lets consumers use kiosks to apply for and get immediate approval of loans.
Affinity's stock, which in recent months had been trading around $2.375- well below its $24 high after an April 1996 initial public offering-dropped this week to $1.25.
"To date, Affinity has yet to come out with a product that has been a success," said Christopher T. Kelley, first vice president of Nashville- based Morgan Keegan & Co.
"Given that the company has a history of weak performance, people are going to wait and see what changes come out of this big" reorganization, said Mr. Kelley.
Mr. Smith said he accepted the post because Affinity is "in a position to fundamentally change the way loans are made, both with the ALM, for which we are known, and automated systems such as indirect automobile lending."
"If a bank can process the loans but can't easily get people to come to its branches, we can put ALM-style kiosks at sponsoring organizations," said Mr. Smith.
He also intends to begin selling the company's systems through other technology vendors.
One example is the company's agreement last December to integrate its technology with the call center systems of Versatility Inc., Fairfax, Va.