A subsidiary of $1 billion-asset Virginia First Savings Bank has announced that it will offer information about and approve mortgages over the Internet.

Using artificial intelligence technology developed by the Novato, Calif.-based Brightware, computers at American Finance and Investment Inc. will guide consumers on the Web through the often-cumbersome process of applying for a mortgage.

The BrightResponse technology automatically "reads" routine E-mail inquires and submits replies, much as a telemarketing agent would do. BrightAdvisor, a second software component to be available later in the year, will "understand" customer questions and respond to them as if they were chatting over an on-line service.

"Consumers who aren't sophisticated about loans and the mortgage origination process will be able to have their questions answered rapidly and get the advice they need automatically," said Chuck Williams, chief executive of Brightware.

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