Dime Savings Bank of New York is getting on the remote delivery bandwagon.
Seeking to join the high-tech league that includes local competitors Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank, Dime is retooling its distribution system. A centerpiece of the strategy is automated loan machines to be installed in shopping malls, hospitals, and branches starting in June.
"We're developing an 'anywhere, anytime' strategy," said Peyton R. Patterson, executive vice president and general manager of consumer lending, who was recruited last year from Chase Manhattan Corp.
While banks in other parts of the country have installed loan machines, Dime expects to be the first in the New York area, initially offering unsecured personal loans. The thrift contemplates going nationwide if the local launching is successful and envisions adding home equity loans, mortgages, and possibly small-business loans to the system.
Dime has been particularly eager to build up its mortgage lending, and it sees the streamlined system as a useful tool. It says it wants to distinguish itself by becoming one of the quickest loan deliverers.
The thrift is spending about $2 million for 15 loan machines and associated support in the program's first stage. The systems will be able to process loans and dispense checks within as little as 10 minutes. Consumers could also apply by phone and pick up their checks at a machine.
The machines would be just one manifestation of chairman Lawrence J. Toal's vision of a new Dime. He alluded to the effort in the company's yearend earnings report as "a major technology project to develop an integrated sales and service delivery system for all of our consumer products, including a state-of-the-art telephone banking capability."
The company had disclosed few details until now.
Affinity Technology Group of Columbia, S.C., is supplying the loan machines and the systems for phone-center automation and back-office processing and underwriting. The program is the first tying together of those systems, said Joe Boyle, Affinity's chief financial officer.
A number of employees handling underwriting and processing tasks will be redeployed to plan the company's national push, Ms. Patterson said.
Dime's move illustrates how lenders are trying to balance their traditional branch systems with delivery channels closer to the cutting edge.
"It's imperative to develop as much distribution and access as possible because consumer financial products are increasingly being bought, not sold," said Rolland Johannsen, president of Furash & Co., a Washington- based consulting firm.
"Adding nontraditional outlets and moving toward customer self-service can be most appropriate," Mr. Johannsen said.
Dime said it sees the expedited loan service as a way of encouraging customers to stay with Dime rather than shopping around.
The drive is especially necessary for institutions that must work hard to stand out in a crowd. Though large by thrift standards-with 90 offices and $20 billion of assets-Dime is dwarfed by New York's commercial banking giants.
Dime expects the system to automate up to 90% of the lending process. Mortgage processing times, for example, would be cut in half, to about 12 days, through direct links to credit bureaus and the ability to order appraisals and title searches automatically.
Ms. Patterson noted that the alternative distribution efforts are meant to supplement, not replace, Dime's existing mortgage and home equity programs.
The thrift also sees the technology as a way to improve cross-selling. The systems will enable creation of profiles of borrowers and matching of them with suitable products, Ms. Patterson said.
Dime will support the rollout with advertisements in consumer publications and with information in statements and other mailings, she said.