Intuit Inc., having encountered some speed bumps in originating mortgage loans on the Internet, is making a substantial investment in First Mortgage Network, a Plantation, Fla., wholesale lender.

First Mortgage will use Intuit's investment-$6 million according to sources familiar with the deal-to develop back-office processing capabilities for applications submitted through Intuit's site. gets 15,000 to 20,000 hits per day, according to Intuit officials, but the 11 lenders that participate have a spotty record when it comes to processing the loan applications generated.

"A number of our lenders have asked us to be a little more flexible by delivering loans to them in different ways," said Alison Berkely, senior product manager of

Intuit is seeking a "proficient way to process and close loans," said Seth Werner, chairman, chief executive officer, and founder of First Mortgage Network. Participants had different ways of acting on Internet- generated loan leads, he explained.

Ms. Berkely said, "It is hard in this market to build up processing centers, so we looked for an outsourcing partner."

Mr. Werner said Intuit was referred to his company based on First Mortgage's past experiences in processing Internet-generated loan applications.

First Mortgage, which closes roughly $2 billion in loans annually, also will fund the loans generated on the site and sell them to lenders chosen by customers., part of the Quicken Financial Network, is one of several popular "aggregator" sites on the Web, along with E-Loan, GetSmart, and HomeShark. Several prominent lenders participate in, including Chase Manhattan Corp., Countrywide Credit Industries, Homeside Lending Inc., PNC Bank Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co.

Other lenders, such as Eastern Mortgage Services, Trevose, Pa., are not interested in joining aggregator sites, preferring to deal with customers directly via their own Web sites.

With more than seven million mortgages originated in the United States last year, BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, San Francisco, has predicted a rapid emergence of Internet-based mortgage lenders. All intend to nab a portion of the $1,500 per loan that typically goes to traditional mortgage brokers.

"We see the Internet as a vehicle for potentially disintermediating the loan officer," said Mr. Werner.

"Someone who originates residential mortgages and who doesn't have a technology base to work from has got to be very frightened," he said.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit launched its site in November 1997 and charges participating lenders up-front fees starting about $60,000. It also charges a transactional fee of 40 basis points of the mortgage's value.

Five-year-old First Mortgage Network has about $75 million in current annualized revenue. It helps its clients-mostly home builders and real estate companies nationwide-set up subsidiary mortgage companies. It either funds mortgages as a wholesale lender or passes them along to other lenders.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.