The Mortgage Bankers Association of America has started a for-profit subsidiary to help its members grapple with technological changes.

The new unit is dubbed Lender Technologies Inc. and is headed by David Lereah, the trade group's 46-year-old chief economist. "We're 10,000 feet in the air looking down at the mortgage industry," Mr. Lereah said. "We can identify inefficiencies and areas for productivity gains by connecting 'A' to 'B.' "

For example, the new company is building a Web site where small commercial-mortgage banks could buy computer equipment at a discount. The MBA unit would negotiate the discounts with manufacturers. Another planned service would conduct due diligence on technology consultants for small lenders that desperately need advice but cannot afford to shop around for themselves.

Probably the most ambitious project under way is a common electronic communications network for the several e-commerce platforms being set up independently.

A loan officer, for example, might be using the HomeAdvisor Technologies platform developed by Microsoft, Freddie Mac, and several leading lenders and unveiled two weeks ago. If that originator wanted to order a title search from a company that does not participate in the HomeAdvisor network, the "e-commerce industry backbone" that the MBA unit wants to create would provide "a pipe to go to that other title search company," Mr. Lereah said.

Mr. Lereah stressed that, by design, Lender Technologies would not compete with existing companies, not even technology vendors. "Our role is to complement already existing companies out there to help them bring products to market, or create new ones with them where we see a void in the marketplace."

Mr. Lereah said the MBA created a for-profit subsidiary to be in a better position to attract top-notch employees. Unless the unit can compensate them well, "they're going to be attracted away by other tech companies," he said.

The association is a few weeks away from deciding how much it will invest in the subsidiary, Mr. Lereah said, but he expects the unit to be self-sustaining within a year.

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