From New York to Holland, Loan Documents by E-Mail

Some large banks are finding that within their existing electronic mail systems lie revenue-producing opportunities.

Electronic mail, or E-mail for short, is a common fixture at banks with more than 20 computer terminals. The technology - which has been around for more than 15 years - has typically been used for sending short, routine messages between employees.

But recently, a number of institutions, including the Dutch giant Rabobank Nederland, have begun using electronic mail to send complex business documents quickly between offices.

Coping with Rising Volume

Rabobank Nederland, with $100 billion in assets, is the 42d-largest banking company in the world. It has become a more prominent power in the U.S. credit market in recent years, largely because of its strengths in agricultural lending.

Since early this year, Rabobank has been E-mailing credit applications from its U.S. headquarters in New York to the home offices in Utrecht - and dollar volume has doubled.

The system was developed by American Telephone and Telegraph Co. The applications were previously sent by courier or fax.

For PCs and Mainframes

"Our loan growth is directly linked to this system," said Edward DeRosa, vice president of information systems in the New York office of the $100 billion-asset Rabobank. "Without changing our old systems, our growth would definitely have been impeded."

The AT&T software in use at Rabobank can run on personal computers or mainframes, depending on the size of the sending office.

The application information is typed into the system at the place of origination and then E-mailed to a central loan-processing site, where it is printed out and evaluated.

Speed-Up Appreciated

By the bank's old methods, such a process typically took four to five days to complete, complicating and slowing their processing of loans.

By using electronic mail systems, the loan information can be sent to credit officers at the home office on the same day the application is received.

The technology involved in this process is nothing new or complex. It consists mainly of inexpensive communication software that allows different computer platforms to converse with one another.

Old Software, New Applications

What is new is the way the technology has been put to use. But as the pressure on banks to conserve capital shrinks technology budgets, innovative ways to use existing technology may become more prevalent.

"Santa Claus isn't around anymore - when you need something new, you can't just dip into the bag and grab it," Mr. DeRosa said. "Out of necessity, banks are finding out how to construct effective tools from pieces of technology they already have."

On the average, sending an application via electronic mail costs $4 to $5. This is a 50% cost savings over courier and fax delivery systems, bank officials said.

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