Chase Manhattan Corp. and Seafirst Corp. have recently purchased software that automates the processing of automobile titles and lien transactions.
Called Paperless Title Systems, it was developed by FDI Consulting Inc., a Sacramento, Calif.-based software company specializing in electronic title systems.
Title transactions between financial institutions and state motor vehicle offices occur when new vehicles are purchased, during transfers of ownership, and when loans are repaid.
The use of the system is an example of how larger institutions in particular are moving to exorcise paper from even their most specialized operations.
Officials of both Chase and Seafirst said the software will improve efficiency by automating the thousands of title transactions that occur each month.
Jay VanCott, an information systems specialist with the Chase auto finance unit, said the software will streamline the processing of title transactions and pay for itself, though he did not predict when.
Randy Hines, a technical support analyst with Seattle-based Seafirst, said the bank's home state treats electronic titles "no differently than paper titles. There is no paper title kept," Mr. Hines said. "We keep a record of it here, while (the department of motor vehicles) has a record that says it was put to paperless."
Electronic title transactions are on the rise.
At least two states - California and Washington - have already converted to electronic title transfers. Oregon, Idaho, and Massachusetts are in test phases.
Shelley Beckett, a manager with California's motor vehicles administration, said the state conducted about 186,000 title transactions electronically last year, with 46,000 occurring with one financial institution alone.
"We don't have to do the initial mailing, and the lien holder is not responsible for keeping track of the paper," Ms. Beckett said. "It's a shared benefit."
FDI's clients include First Interstate Bank, Seattle, and Golden 1 Credit Union, Sacramento. The system costs $5,000 to $20,000, and FDI can also be used as a service bureau.
Troy Underwood, FDI's president, said the software allows lenders to load titles and other account information into the system, which is linked to a state's department of motor vehicles.
"This is just the first step in the revolution to automate all motor vehicle data, including manufacturers' certificates of origin and original vehicle identification numbers," he said.