Quick customer response time and immediate information retrieval are critical to GMAC Commercial Mortgage's growth strategy. To acquire and maintain corporate borrowers and draw securitized loan investors, the financial services company has built a scalable and modular enterprise network to run the latest business applications supporting GMAC's ongoing expansion.

GMAC's network, running 100 megabits to the desktop per second, provides Web-based portfolio access for investors and staff, document imaging for customer service personnel, desktop access to CNN for in-house securities traders and multimedia on-line training and corporate information delivery for all company personnel. Thus, GMAC is able to quickly access market information faster, make more effective business decisions and deliver new products to market three times more rapidly than before, says Naraj Patel, CTO of the Horsham, PA-based commercial mortgage company.

Before the new network, which has a Fast Ethernet backbone consisting of five 3Com Corp. SuperStack 3000 switches built on 3Com's Transcend Networking framework, GMAC had an inherently slower IBM Token Ring network, which did not have the capacity to meet the high-bandwidth requirements of their current multimedia applications. "For getting that 100 megabits, 3Com had the lowest price and highest functionality out of all of the vendors we (considered)," says Patel. The network hardware cost the 850-person organization $250,000, he says.

Beyond bandwidth, the business strategy underpinning the network lies in its scalability and modularity. As the company is growing at a "tremendous rate," the ability for its systems to scale up and easily accommodate additional seats is paramount, says Patel. And the network, he says, enables "seamless growth." 3Com's network switches even offer an uplink module that allows GMAC to migrate to a faster 155 megabits per second asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) backbone, if desired.

But considering the network's bandwidth management capabilities, GMAC should not require that upgrade for some time. "The network allows you to see where you're using all of the bandwidth and you can arrange (it) so that workstations that don't need a lot of bandwidth don't get it so that more bandwidth is automatically distributed to higher bandwidth-consuming workstations," says Rodney Scott, industry marketing, finance industry manager of Santa Clara-based 3Com. The network further can be programmed according to work patterns such that if GMAC's imaging application is consistently used by customer service reps in the morning, and low- bandwidth-consuming e-mail and messaging are more dominant tasks in the afternoon, the network can be programmed to channel bandwidth to the reps when they need it. In addition, says Scott, by being able to observe network traffic, GMAC is able to see where they will need to expand the network and what channels will require additional application development.

For now, the network is more than adequate for the applications GMAC has chosen, says Patel. GMAC's securitized loan investors, for example, now have Web access to portfolio performance and can track their positions.

The network also enables GMAC's Web server to act as an intranet for in-house traders to more efficiently analyze existing loans and optimize portfolio sales and purchases. And with the acquisition of a StarLight media server, these traders have desktop feeds from CNN, supported by network links to Bloomberg and Knight Ridder information services. "It's another way to ensure that the trading desk doesn't miss any information in the market today," says Patel.

The network's multimedia capability has also enabled the organization to deliver training videos and departmental broadcasts to the desktop.

And thanks to a new Optika imaging system, customer service reps now have immediate access to all documentation and communication between customers and GMAC, including billing statements, 1099 forms, inspection reports and photos of investment properties. Plus, using McCracken's Strategy loan servicing system, reps can quickly retrieve customer interest rate, tax, loan balance and insurance data for faster responses to phone inquiries. "Speed is everything," says Patel. "The faster you can (deliver service) for the customer, the better it is for both the organization and the customer." Considering the dollar value of these commercial mortgages- $50 million is not uncommon-GMAC cannot afford to give the impression that it's fumbling for data, he says.

-bers tfn.com

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