To speed the processing of mortgage loans, Bank of America Corp. plans to give mobile brokers pricing information and immediate rate locks using wireless technology.
The new capabilities will be supplied through American Mortgage Information Exchange, or Amie, a wireless network application developed in collaboration with Strategic Communications Corp., Laguna Hills, Calif.
Using the system, Bank of America-approved mortgage brokers in California will be able to access current bank rate and product information using desktop or laptop computers equipped with wireless modems.
Edward Kalush, senior vice president and manager of Bank of America's western wholesale production division, in its residential lending group, said the system is "a big step up" for the bank, since it will speed processing by one or two days, allowing the bank to compete more effectively.
"Given (that) we all have similar products and guidelines, we must differentiate ourselves through service and reaction time," he said.
Bank of America, with approximately $215 billion of assets, will be the first to use the system, which was designed to give access to multiple lenders.
It was introduced to California brokers after more than a year of development and testing.
The bank expects to make Amie available to 50 California mortgage brokers within two months and to 200 by the end of the year.
The system will eventually be made available to broker customers in the bank's entire wholesale lending territory, which includes 39 states and the District of Columbia.
The system will provide updated Bank of America product and pricing information directly to brokers' computers.
Once brokers have chosen a product and appropriate pricing, they can use the network to lock in an interest rate electronically, and will receive immediate confirmation of the rate lock. This eliminates the 24- to 48-hour lag it typically takes to confirm pricing.
As loans move through the approval process, brokers will be able to get immediate updates on their status.
A bulletin feature will allow the lender to communicate important marketing and product promotion information to all network subscribers, to groups of subscribers, or to an individual on the system.
There's also an electronic mail capability and a gateway to the Internet, which will allow loan agents to communicate electronically with lenders' support staff.
The network exchange was developed to meet the transaction- processing needs of the bank's mortgage customers, said Mr. Kalush.
"Wireless access allows brokers the flexibility to access and use Amie anywhere, any time, from their office, their customers' office, or even on the road," he said, adding that brokers will be more responsive to their customers, and will be able to provide quicker service.
Donna Farchione, chief executive officer of Strategic Communications, said that one of the benefits of the system is that, unlike telephone or on-line systems, it is "sessionless," meaning that no dial-up or log-in procedure is required.
"Since Amie operates on a national wireless network, brokers can receive and send information moments after powering up their computers."
Strategic Communications - which offers wireless transaction and business information systems to the residential real estate marketplace - expects to open the network exchange to other lenders, and will develop specialized links to each lender.
This will provide brokers with a standard access point to multiple lenders involved with the system, said company officials.