Extranets that bring extra benefits

Halifax has upgraded its already excellent extranet website for intermediaries and the more lenders invest in these systems, the better it is for brokers\' profitability, says Frank Eve

Lender online technology for intermediaries is develop- ing all the time. All the major intermediary lenders now have extranet solutions. Many of these include online decision tools linked to outside credit reference agencies such as Experian or Equifax which deliver offers subject to valuation.

Some lenders are considering using automated valuation models to enhance this process. Cascade systems have become commonplace, providing the ability to select the rele-vant product from the lender’s range as well as the facility to track cases through to completion.

The quest for enhancements is driven by the need to establish the type of competitive advantage found by the early adopters of this technology such as Abbey, GMAC-RFC and BM Solutions. Each year my firm undertakes a benchmarking exercise to establish best practice in the area of online lender technology. Last year Halifax came out as a leading player in online extranet functionality for intermediaries along with Bank of Scotland, The Mortgage Business and Abbey.

But Halifax has not been resting on its laurels and has upgraded and relaunched its extranet website. It provides online decision, application and tracking functionality in a password-protected area but now has a product search tool to help brokers find the best products for their clients more quickly.

Halifax has also added a lending criteria search tool which makes it easier for brokers to find information about underwriting policies, discover what documentation is accepted to verify their clients’ applications and provide background information about the lender’s valuation schemes and fees.

There is a text message alert service to keep brokers up-to-date with the latest product and service news and brokers can also transact unsecured loans on the website. The ‘contact us’ facility puts brokers in contact with the right person to help them with their query. The website also provides a link to Halifax’s property price valuation index, giving brokers estimated valuations for residential properties across the country. This provides a valuable service – brokers can give clients estimates of the value of their properties before they apply for remortgages or instruct estate agents.

This is a good update to an already excellent website. How this site compares with others in the market will be revealed in this year’s technology benchmark study. The 2006 study will form the basis of the Mortgage StrategyTechnology Awards and we will be starting the process of assessing lender sites over the summer. We will look at all the enhancements implemented by lenders in the past 12 months and paint the full picture on best practice in online intermediary technology.

All enhancements are good news for intermediaries as the more that lenders invest in online systems, the easier and quicker it should be for brokers to transact business. In turn, this should reduce cost and increase profitability in the intermediary sector.

Frank Eve – managing director, Frank Eve Consulting