Intent on becoming a major player in the indirect auto lending business, Bank of America is spending $25 million on a high-tech regional auto loan processing center in Las Vegas.

The 85,000-square-foot facility - expected to be completed in June - will house 560 employees handling loans generated from auto dealers in nine states. The center will be equipped with such leading-edge technologies as satellite communications, video conferencing, and imaging systems, all of which are expected to expedite the processing of an estimated 50,000 loan requests each month.

Through the use of technology, $200 billion-asset Bank of America Corp. hopes to stay a step ahead of the competition in the indirect auto lending business, including other financial institutions, and nonbanks.

In such a competitive market, rates and turnaround time become an issue, said Paul Stowell, a spokesman for Bank of America, Nevada. Technology can help set the bank apart and move it into a leading position, he said.

The bank intends to improve its service by creating a virtually paperless processing environment.

Through the use of imaging technology, loan documents will be digitized, stored, and moved through processing electronically.

Using satellite communications, the bank will link up with car dealers to provide quick approvals by sending documentation to their fax machines or computers.

Lending officers at the facility will also be able to conduct live video conferences with dealers equipped with the technology.

All this is expected to speed the processing of loans.

'We intend to process many of these loans in as few as five minutes," said Anne Tonks, senior vice president and manager of Bank of America's dealer lending division.

Cutting down on paperwork will also enable the bank to provide better rates, because the cost of processing will be greatly reduced, said Mr. Stowell.

Bank of America's dealer lending division holds a portfolio of $2.6 billion of auto loans and leases, according to Ms. Tonks.

The division serves dealers in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. When the new facility is complete, the bank expects to extend its operations to dealers in Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma.

While the bank intends to focus on these states, it is not ruling out processing opportunities for other parts of the country, said Mr. Stowell.

The new center is being built in the Crossing Business Center, located in a development community called Summerlin.

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