Mutuals get in on the online game

The Electra online system from Norwich and Peterborough is available to other societies, meaning even the smallest mutuals can now provide e-commerce functionality, says Frank Eve

We have recently seen a number of specialist lenders such as SPML and Platform launch online broker decision systems to rival those of GMAC-RFC and BM Solutions. But mutuals are also embracing e-commerce and some societies have developed their own online broker systems, including Norwich and Peterborough. It is the 14th largest society in the country with 56 branches mainly located in East Anglia. Brokered business represents 55% of the society’s new lending and it understood the advantage of having a fully featured online mortgage trading solution.

Its Microsoft accredited internal development team had experience developing internet facing systems and in-depth mortgage knowledge. So the decision was taken to develop the system using the inhouse development team.

The result is Electra, which is now being offered as a complete solution to other societies. N&P has already made one sale to another society and has other smaller societies interested in piggy-backing the technology. The system provides a Key Facts Illustration, an agreement in principle that includes an automated credit check and a full online mortgage application that collects all the information required for an application to be processed. The intelligent form adapts the questions to the type of mortgage. A traffic light system highlights areas of the form remaining to be completed. A benefit of submitting cases online is that the underwriting process begins immediately the case has been received. Electra offers back-office integration, removing the need to re-key at the underwriting stage.

Electra also provides self-service functionality, enabling users to be entirely self-sufficient including registration, security details and contact details. And it provides seamless integration with third party sourcing systems, with full Mortgage Brain and Trigold integration scheduled for release soon. Case tracking is the hub of the system and application documentation can be retrieved providing an audit trail, which is particularly useful to ensure a compliant broker sales process. In addition, case notes can be entered enabling dialogue between a broker and an underwriter while case tracking enables pre-population between application stages, further reducing re-keying.

The system also has offline functionality targeting brokers working in clients’ premises. Electra allows offline form completion, uploading the application upon returning to the office. The solution requires no software installation and is based round n-tier architecture with SQL Server, ASP and Visual Basic as its core technologies. The offline functionality makes use of an interactive pdf file.

This development shows that even the smallest of societies now has an online broker system ready to be deployed. This moves the industry along the e-commerce road so that gaining an advantage from online systems is no longer a question of offering the lender’s own system linked to the current platforms. The next stage in the development of online systems that link lenders and their distribution will have to be bespoke integrations that can remove costly processes and provide new levels of interoperability.