Bisys Group Inc. has entered into a product partnership with the Atlanta-based software company Strategic Solutions Group Inc. to provide loan-by-phone software to Bisys' financial institution customers.

The software, called Loan Connection, is a consumer loan generation and cross-selling program designed to help financial institutions provide quick loan approvals over the phone.

The software also gives branch personnel and indirect lenders information to help make credit card decisions.

Loan Connection is the latest addition to a growing portfolio of loan software at Bisys.

The company has been expanding its loan system capabilities in response to a competitive environment in which automation is increasingly being used to assist customer service.

Last year, the Little Falls, N.J.-based company integrated loan closing software, made by CFI Proservices Inc., into its line of commercial lending products and services for large banks and commercially chartered community banks.

Bisys hopes the new consumer loan-by-phone capability will "position our community bank clients to effectively compete with their aggressive nonbank competitors," said Paul Bourke, Bisys' president and chief operating officer.

Phone-based financial services are popular among financial institutions because virtually every home in America can use them.

Through Loan Connection, callers are prompted to enter application information via touch-tones.

The program then integrates the applicant's credit report with immediate credit scoring and bank-defined underwriting criteria, loan products, and rates.

In the coming months, Bisys will work with Strategic Solutions to extend the service to the Internet.

Loan Connection will be available starting next month to Bisys' 400 community banking clients.

In other news, Bisys has signed a long-term outsourcing agreement with Sterling Savings Association to provide the bank with information processing.

The five-year, multimillion-dollar agreement was approved through Sterling Savings' parent company, Sterling Financial Corp.

The deal calls for Bisys to provide its traditional array of lending, deposit, electronic banking, and other applications through its Totalplus product line, used by more than 400 financial institutions.

"We rely on technology to support our goals, efficiency and productivity objectives, customer service initiatives, and competitive positioning," said Heidi Stanley, senior vice president of administration and operations at the $1.4 billion-asset financial institution, based in Spokane, Wash. The deal gives Bisys a significant presence on the West Coast - a region the company has recently begun to target, said Mr. Bourke.

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