The new chief executive officer of Competix.com said he expects to have several hundred banks using his company's automated lending service by yearend.
That would be a big achievement for a company that had only two customers when William G. Fisher came on board in July.
Competix - which enables banks to make quick decisions on loans offered through the Internet, by telephone, or in the branch - is a different animal from GetSmart.com, which Mr. Fisher founded in 1996 and sold to Providian Financial Corp. last year. GetSmart marketed its on-line loan service directly to consumers; Competix markets to banks, which in turn offer the service to retail customers.
Mr. Fisher said his new company's goal is to be the "Intel inside" of automated lending, referring to the computer chip maker's advertising slogan. "We are the system inside banks, and banks can choose how to go to consumers," said Mr. Fisher, who worked on retail banking strategy at Wells Fargo & Co. before leaving to form GetSmart.
Competix's approach assumes a status quo in how consumers get loans. "I am not betting on a huge change in consumer behavior," Mr. Fisher said.
Burlingame, Calif.-based Competix.com was founded in 1998 through a partnership between Bank of Montreal and American Management Systems, a Fairfax, Va.-based systems integrator and consulting firm. The companies jointly developed the software, which Bank of Montreal has used for a few years.
Competix now has 25 financial institution customers. Its 35 employees are an increase from four when Mr. Fisher arrived and include seasoned Internet strategists who understand the need for speed, Mr. Fisher said. New staffers include a chief operating officer hired from GetSmart.
Mr. Fisher simplified Competix's product set so that banks only need to purchase the Internet connection. The software, called Credit Manager, is aimed at community banks seeking a cost-effective alternative to large-scale lending hardware and software.
"Millions of applications have gone through the system," said Mr. Fisher, referring to Bank of Montreal's use of the software. "This is not some cutting-edge technology out of a garage. This is fool-proof."
Nick P. Karris, a senior analyst at Gomez Advisors, said Mr. Fisher's expectation of getting hundreds of bank customers by yearend is reasonable.
"If they can integrate the technology to gather the underwriting information, there will be significant opportunity to automate and expedite the process," Mr. Karris said.
For cash-strapped small businesses that often complain about the amount of time banks take to make loan decisions, "Competix can help to speed decision time," Mr. Karris said. In addition, the software would induce banks to establish standard guidelines for underwriting loans, which would aid in processing loans.
Only 16% of the country's 8,000 small to midsize banks have automated lending, Mr. Fisher said. Those banks "have no choice but to automate their lending program," he said.