Feuds are breaking out within mortgage companies as different units grapple with pressures to use more technology to offset shrinking margins.

Some of the biggest battles are being fought between technology units that develop systems and department managers that try to apply the automation, according to lenders attending an industry conference.

"Very often there is an adversarial relationship, with both the business side and the technology side looking to duck the blame if something blows up," said Joseph Gorton, executive vice president at Eastern Mortgage Services, Trevose, Pa.

"There must be a serious partnership between the automation people and line managers, or else it just won't work," said Mr. Gorton, who has worked on both sides, as a systems programmer and a marketing manager.

Internal problems at mortgage companies spurred a good deal of discussion during the National Technology in Mortgage Banking conference sponsored by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.

Lenders at the Orlando conference acknowledged that any part of a bank can be rattled by discord over how best to employ automation. But mortgage bankers said their operations are particularly vulnerable because technology is so crucial to all aspects of the lending process-from originations to secondary marketing.

"It's a major issue for us," said Brenda Wilson, senior vice president overseeing technology at Crestar Mortgage Corp., Richmond, Va.

Executives said that managers often entrust to technology units broad tasks like improving application speeds or getting different units to better communicate-without setting priorities or parameters for the project.

For instance, Ms. Wilson said Crestar's technology department recently purged 1,000 ambiguous requests from its log, "because we know we'd never get to them."

What results can mortgage companies expect from the lack of coordination between different units? "A whole lot of chaos," said Leilani Allen, a director with Tenex Consulting, Burlington, Mass.

Department managers must make very clear what they are looking for from the technology department-and then stay involved throughout the project, Ms. Allen said.

At the same time, technology managers must become better-educated about what other parts of the mortgage company do, so they can better develop solutions.

"It's not good enough to finish a job and look at it from a technology standpoint," Ms. Allen said. "It has to be evaluated through the eyes of those who will use it, and fine-tuned where necessary."

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