Managing a loan portfolio does not need to be as complex as many make it, according to xplair Technology LLC, which has built an online system that provides visibility when it says investors need it most.
The illumair Management System aggregates loan data from multiple sources and lets users perform detailed analysis using a Web browser. The San Diego company's tool can be updated as frequently as data is made available to it.
"It's one stop, online and available around the clock," Jill Parker, xplair's managing director, said in an interview last week.
In many current setups, investors and other companies that receive loan data from multiple sources get nightly updates in a variety of incompatible formats. They frequently have to find their own ways to drill down to look at specific data using manual procedures or rudimentary automation, she said.
By contrast, illumair "puts the data in one location for a user, whereas they are used to looking at things in multiple other systems," Parker said. Without it, "Users would have to aggregate their own data in a spreadsheet or database program."
Today, xplair has eight clients — including investors, servicers and providers of services related to foreclosed properties — and 60 end users on its illumair system. It has done little to promote its system, which it introduced at the end of last year. The company tested it first with a small group.
However, the effects the current economy has had on loans, as well as xplair's success with early clients, have prompted the company to promote illumair more aggressively. Parker predicted that the volume of data on its system will triple by the end of 2009.
"The need for this has greatly expanded given the continued increase of distressed real estate assets," she said. "This is a common theme in recent demos we've given."
Prospective clients are having trouble getting a detailed view of the status of certain loans, or trends in their overall portfolio when they work with spreadsheets and database programs, she said. There also has been a disconnect between investors and servicers, which Parker said can be attributed to the confusion caused by high default rates and changing state laws.
An investor who wants to see exactly how service providers are handling certain loans could use this tool to single out specific areas of interest, Parker said.
For example, one client used illumair to examine specific loans that are over 120 days delinquent and to see what actions had been taken with them.
To enroll loans in illumair, a user would have to contact each data source and request the data be sent to xplair in a specific format. This would be a one-time process, Parker said, and after the providers agree, xplair can receive updated information every night and immediately present it within its system.
Craig Focardi, the senior research director for the consumer lending service at TowerGroup Inc., an independent research firm in Needham, Mass., owned by MasterCard Inc., said there is an audience that would greatly benefit from a product like illumair.
In today's market, there is an "increased need for investors to get better and granular information on the loans underlying the securities they're investing in," Focardi said.
"When fewer loans were going into default, it wasn't as big a problem to deal with, and now it's a big problem so it needs a more robust solution," he said.
Indeed, it is more common for investors to have been complacent with being somewhat disconnected from the specifics of their investments, Focardi said. "It is notoriously true that a lot of investors have not been sophisticated in their portfolio analysis and there has been an overreliance on simple spreadsheet-based analysis."
This is beginning to change, he said, and companies that handle loan data are seeking tools to help them get a handle on their various assets.
"The xplair system, if it can aggregate that information for investors and enable them to do analysis on just the loans in their portfolio from multiple servicing sources … that's a big benefit for the market," Focardi said.