Acting on a mandate from General Electric Co. chairman Jack Welch, GE Capital Mortgage Insurance Corp. has focused intensely in the last year on developing Web-based sales and service processes for its customers.
Mr. Welch's theory goes that as an old-economy company well established in all its business lines, General Electric is poised to compete more effectively on the Internet than dot-com start-ups that have Web sites but no infrastructure in those industries.
To take advantage of that position, each GE business is now required to designate an "e-business leader" who is responsible for rallying everyone around technology and developing products, systems, and services.
"Their job is to get all the operating components, operations and sales, to develop Web strategies of their own on how they're going to use the Web to improve their operations and their interactions with customers," said Rich Nastasi, senior vice president and e-business leader for the Raleigh, N.C.-based mortgage insurance unit.
"We have over 150 people in [mortgage insurance] involved in designing, delivering, and dreaming Web-based solutions for both internal use and improving interactions with our customers."
Last month the unit rolled out its new Web site. The automated system enables GE's lender customers to apply for mortgage insurance over the Internet and receive an approval in 50 seconds, vastly improving a process once dependent on fax machines and a lot of people.
"Our customers can hit a button, get a decision, and print out a certificate of insurance in 50 seconds," Mr. Nastasi said. "If you contrast that with 20 to 30 minutes elapsed time plus the hassle of looking for everything, we think it's a significant benefit, not only to us but to our lenders."
GE Mortgage Insurance also offers a settlement services product, which allows customers to order titles, appraisals, flood insurance, and income verification over the Web. The system links to providers of such services. GE's customers can also receive schedules for when the services will be completed.
GE Mortgage Insurance officials said customer reception has been strong. Web orders jumped 50% in the last month, officials said, and are up 400% this year.
They said the company is currently running 130 "e-enabling projects," which include everything from replacing checks with electronic fund transfers to putting its entire claims process.
"We view this as a fundamental repositioning of our company," Mr. Nastasi said. "I think we'll see radical reductions in operating expenses and radical improvements in customer service, because all the fulfillment will be available over the Internet for ordering and servicing.
"We'll be able to have more competitive offerings for customers, who will continue to get better and faster fulfillment."