To hear Premier Lending president George Phelps tell it, what's been said of most traditional banks regarding their relatively late start getting up to speed, technologically speaking, with nonbanks is true-and it's doubly so in the mortgage banking segment.

Phelps attributes the lag to a high percentage of executives that have risen up through the ranks from positions as underwriters, loan originators, processors and other areas that have seen very little innovation in workflow over the years.

But, he says, times have changed. "The mortgage industry is finally waking up." Executives at a growing number of mortgage banks are recognizing that the manual processing systems of old simply don't allow an organization to maintain its strategic agility. Secondary marketing officers, for example, can price new loans far more effectively- aggressively, but without underpricing the market-when they know up-to-the- minute how many loans in a pool have been locked in at particular interest rates. And executives can clearly make better strategic decisions when they have more information readily on hand.

It was for this reason that over a year ago Premier Lending, the mortgage bank arm of $300 million-asset Premier Bancshares, began working on a corporate intranet to provide mortgage department managers with greater accessibility to data housed in its InterLINQ-developed MortgageWare database. But, in mid-development of the intranet project, Phelps attended an InterLINQ users' conference and learned that the company was getting ready to debut MortgageWare InfoLINQ, an intranet-based information management product for enterprisewide access of business information.

Shortly thereafter, Premier installed InfoLINQ; the lender now has 10 execs-including the chairman, CEO and COO, as well as executives in operations, production, and secondary marketing-accessing mortgage data from intranet Web pages via Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Each user's desktop is customized to access the information specific to his or her function using a secured user name and password. The secondary marketing manager, for example, has access to which products are currently being offered, whether they are locked in and when they're scheduled to close. The operations manager, on the other hand, can now view how many loans are in the database, how they are categorized and where they are in terms of processing, closing and shipping. And each employee required virtually no training to use the system.

Even more, Phelps says that managers no longer have to spend time running reports on the database, hunting for information. Rather, that task is offloaded to InfoLINQ, which is programmed to automatically "sweep" the database four times each day and appropriately categorize the information into pre-requested reports; this means more is time spent on strategizing and designing product offerings to be more competitive, and less time is spent on menial work.

At press time, Premier had been using the system for a little over a month and had already recognized significant time savings. And when the various customized reports for each manager are finished-in approximately 30 to 60 days, depending on report complexity-"the time and cost savings factors to this company will be just astronomical," says systems operation manager Kathy Adkins Hunt.

She estimates that the HMDA reporting function alone will save the bank approximately four months worth of work in the fourth quarter of 1997. Before InfoLINQ, in order for the company to be in full compliance, an individual would have to spend that much time scanning through the database and checking each loan for missing information. Now, InfoLINQ does that automatically once a month.

Additionally, the bank has the capability to see how originators are doing at all times, says Phelps, which means that it can gauge which products are selling at what price in specific geographic regions. "You can keep yourself from being too aggressive. If a product is getting a lot of activity, that may mean you have to see if you've underpriced the market. It will give you the information immediately, whereas before it might have been two or three weeks before you figured that out."

-prince tfn.com

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