Loan bank casts extra net

The Bank's internet business manager Mike Gulliver said an extranet website and data interface was installed late last year, following completion of a Benefits Realisation Plan, which showed that an extranet would reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and quicken internet communications between Adelaide bank and its MOs.

Adelaide Bank provides wholesale homeloan packages to partnering commercial loaning companies ("mortgage originators"), which then resell the products to customers. Mortgate orginators (MOs) refer home loan applications to the Bank, which assesses and potentially authorises and finances the loans.

"Customers don't even know they've taken out a loan with Adelaide Bank," Gulliver said, adding that the bank had 50 partnering home loan companies in Australia, including IF&I Securities, which operates NSW Home Loans, VIC Home Loans and WA Home Loans.

"It was important for us to deliver a system for the mortgage originators to manage the complete funding relationship with Adelaide Bank through one interface," he said. MOs would typically require access to information regarding "arrears management", not customer data, he said.

Automating the delivery of routine information between the MOs and the bank enabled it to process home loans within four hours, whereas with the previously system it could take "a couple of days". Gulliver said as a result, the bank had increased its potential loan-approval-per-month dollar value from $40 million to $300 million per month.

The extranet allows MOs to track the progress of loan approvals via the internet and more easily update customers on the progress of their loan applications.

Gulliver said the website was equipped with 128-bit encryption, protected by password access, and had a a controlled access function, which limited MO employee access "depending on their role within the organisation". He said a champion" had been elected from each MO to administer staff access. MOs were not able to use the system to access information on competing MOsThe extranet interface was developed by Sydney interface design company The Hiser Group and Com Tech's South Australian operation built a Microsoft Site Server-based engine, to integrate the bank's in-house data with the "front-end" interface of the extranet.

Gulliver said the Site Server engine and interface did not replace any existing technology. "It just replaced paper," he said. The companies completed their portions of the project on time and on budget.

He said the Bank was aware of Com Tech's reputation for timely delivery, and was attracted to the integrator's fixed (undisclosed) installation rate. Success of the project was suggested early when the bank piloted the extranet in October last year with access only available to WA Home Loans.

Following a successful trial, the extranet was launched inh the following month with access to all of the bank's home loan partnering companies. Gulliver agreed that sometimes large-scale technology initiatives such as extranet deployments could incur substantial periods of "adjustment" before benefiting the business.

However, he suggests that often customers are more reluctant than the businesses to "embrace" new technology. Each of the bank's partnering MOs "embraced the extranet and are already reaping significant costcutting and timesaving benefits," he said.

Benefits of an extranet

IDC analyst Graham Penn said companies with extranets often advertised state-of-the-art technology and efficiency without accepting the "two or three year learning curve" typically incurred by such large-scale initiatives.

According to Penn, extranets are a "reworking" of ERP solutions. Ideally extranets were "part of an overall solution, which involved other customer relationship management technology and strategies in addition to extranets, he said.

"You don't have one or the other," Penn said. "The term is used by companies to describe any internet-based communication between the company and "outside authorised clients".

"When they take (Internet communication) out beyond their organisation, either to customers or to suppliers, its dubbed 'extranet'," he said, stressing that that the term was dependent on the inclusion of Internet technology.

"EDI applications, which typically ran in a proprietary environment in the old days, would not be part of an extranet," he said.

Penn said the primary advantage of extranet technology was controlled external access. This could speed up Internet communication and allow for more vulnerable information to be given over the Net, which may neccesitate adding security measures in order to gain maximum benefit .

Customers may still require some sort of authorisation... to tap into the extranet, which is often controlled behind a firewall. Otherwise, it would just be an internet, which anyone can access," Penn said. It would be pointless for a company to install an extranet without any form of firewall""An extranet ïs secure by definition. Otherwise, you might as well just put it up on the Internet and make it available to the whole world," he said.

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