Fannie Mae is moving to bolster its access to lenders and brokers that serve people on-line.

Last week, the buyer of mortgage loans announced that it would test a program with Lenders Interactive Online Network.

The program would let four lenders link mortgage brokers to Fannie Mae's point of sale origination software, Desktop Originator, via the Internet.

The LION Web site is to be run by a mortgage technology company that is a division of Plenum Communications Inc. of Seattle.

The alliance with LION puts Fannie Mae "in closer touch with the broker," said Richard Beidl, an analyst at the Tower Group in Needham, Mass.

Traditionally, neither Fannie nor Freddie Mac has had broker relationships as close as those with major lenders, he said.

The partnership "allows Fannie Mae to move one step closer to the end- user, the customer," Mr. Beidl said.

And it is also a way for the company to "really brand itself," he added.

"Our Internet strategy is really tailored around what the lenders want to do," said Michael J. Williams, senior vice president for customer technology services at Fannie Mae.

Freddie Mac's recently announced partnership with Norwest Mortgage is also partly a technology alliance. It will enable the top mortgage originator to use its own automated underwriting system in exchange for selling virtually all its loans to Freddie, boosting Freddie's market share in the secondary market.

Brokers in Fannie Mae's program would be able to use the Web site service whether or not they originate loans. Some companies already offer Desktop Originator in software systems they offer to the broker community, but this initiative is to make the system available via the Internet.

The Web site connects to Desktop Originator and then submits the loan for consideration to a lender.

This lender then decides whether to underwrite the loan and gives its decision to the broker.

HomeSide Lending Inc., Flagstar Bank, CrossLand Mortgage Corp., and FT Mortgage Cos. are testing the program.

These four have been among Fannie Mae's "most active long-term Desktop Originator lenders," Mr. Williams said. CrossLand, already a client of LION, said brokers will now have the option of submitting loan applications directly from the Web site.

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