CRA Wiz is emerging as the software of choice for bankers and regulators interested in Community Reinvestment Act compliance.
The geocoding software developed by Boston-based PCI Services lets users gather, chart, and analyze data by demographic category. It breaks down information by race, sex, income, and neighborhood to ensure a bank is lending to all parts of its community. It can then display the results numerically or on a multicolored map or chart.
These features give banks a road map to help run successful CRA lending programs by identifying areas where they are not making enough loans, according to PCI Services partner James Daley.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency liked CRA Wiz so much it sent the software to 220 national bank examiners last year.
Richard Freer, the OCC's director of compliance management, said CRA Wiz was "the most complete product we saw. None of the others came close to offering the amount of data they did."
The Federal Reserve System and Office of Thrift Supervision are considering giving CRA Wiz to their examiners.
Susan Rice, senior vice president and CRA chief at Natwest Bank, a subsidiary of $29 billion-asset Natwest Bancorp, Jersey City, said she tried out a half-dozen products before selecting CRA Wiz.
"It does everything that we were trying to have built for us," Ms. Rice said. "It's all there. It's really a good product."
Ms. Rice said she discovered CRA Wiz last year at a fair-lending conference. After a three-minute demonstration, she said, she was hooked.
The bank rejected competing products, including a proposal to design a system internally, because CRA Wiz could be customized to meet its needs, she said.
The OCC's endorsement makes the product even more useful, she said. Now her staff and the examiners can review each other's work. Natwest's London- based parent, National Westminster Bank PLC, is selling the U.S. retail subsidiary to Fleet Financial Corp.
PCI's Mr. Daley said customizing CRA Wiz can help banks discover faults in their lending practices. But it also gives examiners many ways to dissect a bank's performance under the reinvestment law.
"It turns the exams into a courtroom drama," Mr. Daley said. "Examiners can go mining through the data for all sorts of questions. But it can also let banks see where their weaknesses are and where they need work."
The product is expensive. For large national banks, it costs up to $30,000. Community banks pay less than $5,000 for a stripped-down version.
Wells Fargo Bank, NationsBank Corp., the New York State Banking Department, and the Department of Justice are among the more than 100 CRA Wiz users.