Affinity Technology Group may be on the comeback trail.
The Columbia, S.C., company, a pioneer of quick-decision consumer loan kiosks, has licensed its patented technology to American Management Systems Inc. for at least $1 million. Additional licensing fees are likely as AMS customers buy the technology.
The patent covers automated credit decisions made when consumers enter information into a network, such as the Internet.
It was granted in September and looms large in Affinity's attempt to reverse a precitious decline in Affinity's revenue and stock price since the initial public offering in April 1996.
With 32 million shares outstanding, the stock closed Friday at 87.5 cents, a far cry from its initial offering price of $13 and the record $24.25 set soon after the IPO.
Sandy Devine, who leads AMS' consumer financial services practice, said Affinity's patent really affects any organization that does lending on the Internet.
We felt a prudent course of action for us would be to provide access to this patent to our clients, said Ms. Devine, a vice president.
AMS, based in Fairfax, Va., is a software developer and systems integrator whose customers include the 100 largest banks in North America.
Among its products is Strata, which helps banks make credit decisions over the Web; and the Automated Credit Application Processing System for high-volume lenders.
Affinity's patent was needed so that ACAPS users could extend their lending business to the Internet, Ms. Devine said. The patent covers automated credit decisions, in which consumers enter information through the Internet and other networks.
Murray Smith, president and chief executive officer of Affinity, said the company's initial business model revolved around manufacturing and selling automated lending kiosks. Sales of the terminals were brisk until banks discovered they could not drum up enough new business to justify their purchase.
It did not succeed as a business for customers that bought those machines, Mr. Smith said.
Affinity still supports 10 banks that operate the automated lending machines, but it is no longer actively selling the product. It has refocused its business to support bank-lending operations at its data center in Columbia.
We took the technology that was behind the kiosks and used it to build highly automated loan processing systems that work through a bank's normal operations, Mr. Smith said.
Affinity's iDeal service, aimed at the $400-billion-a-year automobile lending market, pulls consumer credit reports and car information, then applies banks' lending policies to render decisions. Companies using the service include Dime Savings Bank of New York and People's Bank of California.
Affinity is also developing a product called rtDS (for real-time decision service), which would exploit Affinity's patented technology. The service would enable credit institutions to automate loan processing on the Internet.
I think it is pretty obvious to anyone that the future is the Internet, Mr. Smith said. It is the way loans will be done.
Affinity reported second-quarter revenues of $1.2 million, up 87% from a year earlier. It had a net loss of $2.5 million, down from $4.5 million.
Affinity still has $6.3 million left from the $60 million it raised in 1996, plus $1.4 million in outstanding receivables, which should keep it adequately funded in the near term, Mr. Smith said.
I think we can make it as a business again, he said.