The PMI Group Inc. is offering a Spanish language module for its Mortgage Connection service, an automated phone system for lenders.
PMI, a mortgage insurance firm, devised the service to help lenders reach a larger pool of borrowers, which could result in more business for both the borrowers and PMI.
"It's in (PMI's) interest to increase the volume of business," said Barbara Smiley, a mortgage technology consultant with the Tower Group, Wellesley, Mass.
She said PMI is branching out from its usual business offerings by "selling technology systems as well."
Ms. Smiley said borrowers aren't just "suburban, middle-class persons anymore," so the mortgage industry must reach out to people with "different languages, different financial requirements, different credit histories."
Tony Porter, a vice president with PMI Mortgage Insurance Co., said the Spanish language module could help remove "potential barriers to homeownership" and open the mortgage market to an "ever broader demographic base of potential borrowers."
PMI's Mortgage Connection service uses "800" numbers to attract prospective borrowers.
Customers use a voice response system on touch-tone phones to answer simple queries. Prospective borrowers can call at any hour, seven days a week.
The automated service accesses credit bureaus, and evaluates a prospect's creditworthiness using the bank's underwriting criteria. It can let customers know of their preapproval status within minutes, PMI executives said.
The service then faxes the caller's telephone number and prequalification status to a lending officer for follow-up calls.
About 50 lenders now use PMI's Mortgage Connection, which was launched last year.
PMI's system is built around patent-pending software from Creative Solutions Group, Atlanta. PMI operates as sales representative to the mortgage lending industry for Creative Solutions.
Several other banks use, or plan to use, the service based on Creative Solutions' software, including First Chicago Corp., Norwest Corp., First Interstate Bancorp, and Chemical Banking Corp., said Charles F. Goetz, chairman and chief executive of Creative Solutions.
The company claims the service helps banks overcome the problems inherent in selling mortgages through branch offices.
"Banks do pathetically in the mortgage industry," Mr. Goetz said, because most branch customers - prospective borrowers - tend turn elsewhere when applying for a mortgage.
Most people do not like the mortgage process traditionally used by banks, he said.
"They think it's a pain," he said.