Marketing of |Professional Lender' Stops, but Tech Support Continues

International Business Machines Corp. has halted its sales efforts for a commercial-lending software package, the last vestige of an ambitious project that began more than two years ago.

IBM officials confirmed last week that the company was no longer marketing the Professional Lender software that the company acquired last year from Newbury & Molinare Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Professional Lender was slated to be a key application in an ambitious project, known as Officer's Workbench, that aimed to tie software packages from several companies into a comprehensive commercial lending package running under IBM's OS/2 operating system.

Related Product Was Dropped

Even when the multimillion-dollar Officer's Workbench project was canceled early this year, IBM continued to market Professional Lender and sold the product as a stand-alone solution to several financial institutions, including First Florida Bank, Tampa.

But now Big Blue has stopped even those efforts and is concentrating only on technical support for the sales that have been made.

Bankers and consultants close to the commercial lending projects indicated that sales of Professional Lender were halted for much the same reason that Officer's Workbench sales were suspended: The banks installing the software were unhappy with the speed of the implementation.

"Right now, we are reevaluating Professional Lender," said Thomas W. Pankey, solutions manager for commercial lending at IBM. "In the coming months, we will be working more closely with our customers to come up with tailored solutions that will better meet their specific needs."

First Florida Bank bought Professional Lender last March with the intention of installing the software on personal computers in its 144 branch offices. The bank and IBM have now agreed to suspend that deal.

"The bank had certain performance/capacity needs it wanted met in a time frame that was different from the one IBM had in mind," said Daniel W. Taylor, senior vice president at First Florida Bank, Tampa.

Role in Market Retained

IBM will still have a presence in the commercial lending arena, as it concentrates on custom installations of software from Micro/Resources Inc. f Larkspur, Calif., Financial Proformas of Walnut Creek, Calif., and other vendors.

But it has clearly retreated from its effort to create a comprehensive commercial lending system that works within the OS/2 environment.

In contrast, Microsoft Corp., IBM's main rival in the personal computer software business, plans to announce this week its effort to establish a comparable commercial-loan package using the Windows operating system, a direct competitor to OS/2.

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