Mortgage originators risk becoming obsolete as computers take over the jobs they do, a securities analyst says.

"We are cautious about the long-term value of the mortgage loan origination business," according to mortgage bank analyst Gary J. Gordon of PaineWebber.

He expressed that view in an Aug. 27 report on Countrywide Credit, Pasadena, Calif, that he took as an opportunity to review trends affecting the entire industry.

"We are increasingly skeptical that Countrywide, or any other loan originator, will over the long run be able to generate much income from the loan origination process," Mr. Gordon wrote.

He reaffirmed a "neutral" rating he gave Countrywide last October. Before last fall, the shares were rated "attractive."

At $23.25, he wrote, "the stock has now reached a fair price and in fact could come under some downward pressure."

The originations business is also under pressure because of improved technology, Mr. Gordon wrote. "The computer may be your friend, but we don't believe it will be a long-term friend of the mortgage origination business."

Systems will soon be more efficient than loan officers at collecting borrower data, at providing consultation on underwriting, appraisal, and loan products, and at preparing documentation, Mr. Gordon wrote.

Some industry experts took issue with Mr. Gordon's assessment, saying mortgage originators would change with the times and adopt new software to remain competitive.

But Mr. Gordon said it wouldn't take a mortgage banker to run the financial software to originate loans.

"There is no logical reason" for mortgage originators to be the only ones with these new systems, Mr. Gordon wrote.

"We expect technology to keep squeezing the value-added of mortgage originators."'

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