Barnett Banks Inc. plans to install new software in its auto-dealer lending unit to accelerate underwriting and to help solidify relationships with subprime lenders in Florida.

The $40 billion-asset Barnett joins a growing list of financial institutions using loan automation software from Credit Management Solutions Inc. of Columbia, Md.

NationsBank Corp., Wachovia Corp., and 22 others use the vendor's products to accept application filings electronically from dealers and to route applications that do not meet their criteria to other lenders.

The system "helps our relationships with dealers because we become their complete provider," said Mark Poole, senior vice president at Barnett Dealer Financial Services Inc. "It's the direction that most of the top lenders are headed."

Bank installations began last July when Credit Management Solutions launched its line of Credit Connection software.

Barnett, which expects to be running the software this spring, is the first bank to use the product independent of Credit Management Solutions' workflow software, CreditRevue.

Credit Connection provides an electronic link to dealers. Executives at Barnett Dealer Financial Services said the software would trim underwriting time by averting the need to enter data manually from application forms sent via fax. They said the current approval process lasts an average of one hour.

The software, like competing products from companies such as Appro Systems Inc., Baton Rouge, La., also can automatically approve or decline applications, based on criteria set by the bank user.

The automation of obvious approvals or declines frees underwriters in Barnett's dealer lending unit to focus on applications that need special attention.

"We can improve turnaround time and add value services," said Mr. Poole.

Credit Connection's Lender Link module will help Barnett deal with a broad array of subprime lenders in the Southeast. The Jacksonville, Fla.- based bank hopes to expand its relationships with subprime lenders in coming months, Mr. Poole said.

By referring loan applications to subprime lenders, Barnett can reap income in the form of finder's fees, said Mr. Poole.

The service also may prove a useful marketing tool, by spreading the bank's name in new lending circles.

"Barnett's growth objectives will be aided significantly," said Steve LaMore, president and chief executive of the dealer lending unit.

Barnett ranks among the nation's top 10 auto lenders, with $6 billion of credits outstanding and connections to 1,500 dealers in the Southeast.

The company would further expand its geographic reach through its previously announced acquisition of Oxford Resources Corp., a Melville, N.Y.-based auto leasing company.

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