A Houston consulting company has launched a Web site to help community banks team up on loans online, but some observers expressed reservations about the idea.

LoanOptimizer.com was established by John M. Floyd & Associates three weeks ago.

Three banks have signed up, and a dozen have said they intend to do so, said Mr. Floyd, its chairman. A thousand will have enrolled by yearend, he predicted.

"The concept was born to allow community banks to go after business, regardless of size," said Mr. Floyd.

The site will boost small banks' participation business, simplify the paper trail, and create efficiencies, Mr. Floyd said.

"We've found that banks have too many loans, not enough loans, too many of a given segment, not enough of a given segment," he said. "This is an opportunity to buy or look for loans electronically, and it allows them to sell loans very quickly."

But Peter J. Sposito, president and chief executive officer of Bankers' Bank Northeast in Glastonbury, Conn., said that though he is intrigued by the concept, LoanOptimizer.com may short-change the relationship aspect of loan sharing.

"It would be helpful to be aware of opportunity," he conceded, but "you have to be sure the bank's underwriting standards are up to your own."

Banks generally partner with others they have worked with before or otherwise know well.

Mr. Floyd said that banks can use other means to research those they might partner with through LoanOptimizer.com, but that the site would not include ways to help them in that research.

LoanOptimizer.com gives a "snapshot" of a loan - loan identification number, originating bank, loan type, state, county/parish, amount, variable rate, present rate, and term - Mr. Floyd said.

David Koto of Brintech Inc., a technology consulting company in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., said ignorance of a loan partner's history and lending philosophy could be a problem. LoanOptimizer is "a great concept," he said, but he echoed Mr. Sposito's comments.

"Looking strictly at the financial standing of a bank is not the question," Mr. Koto said. "It's really the particular loan on the books and how the bank made the decision to give the loan.

"On LoanOptimizer, it's a pool of loans from all over the country. You don't know the banks intimately. The difference is knowing who you are dealing with and possibly not knowing."

LoanOptimizer member-banks must pay Mr. Floyd's company $1 a month per $1 million in assets, with a minimum fee of $100 per month, and 0.25% of each loan they sell.

To deter competing banks from participating in a loan, Mr. Floyd's company requires that they get approval from the originating bank to view additional information on a particular loan.

The average loan is expected to be $500,000, and the site's first loans are expected to close this week.

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