Software Review- V 2.0

“While this product may appear to be a web-based application due to its use of Java and HTML, in reality it is mostly intended to be used as a stand-alone application. ”

icalc version 2.0 was developed to meet the needs of the mortgage professional or consumer desiring more precise comparisons between various lending scenarios that might impact the desirability of any particular program.

icalc is available in a business and consumer version (the latter just now being released). It is written in the Java programming language and uses the “Java Runtime Environment” from Sun. When opening up the program on your desktop, a window pops up to invoke the Java environment prior to invoking the “front end” where the user actually enters the appropriate information and interfaces with the application. Output is generated in the form of HTML files that are brought up by your browser (Internet Explorer is preferred) for review and printing. The only problem with this use of a web page is that if the numbers in a loan analysis are changed, the output is regenerated with changes to a file, and the browser window must be refreshed to see the new results. This may take some getting used to.

Output can be utilized as printed output or as a file. A file can be e- mailed from within the program to a client, and this output can be customized for the very specific situation that a particular individual might need to review. This output can be read as a standard HTML- based attachment within an e-mail, using a regular Internet browser.

Aside from the novelty of using a Java-based program, just how well does icalc work, and what does it do differently? icalc does all the normal calculations involving payment and amortization schedules, and the impact of paying points. It also allows the user to perform unlimited loan comparisons and very advanced analyses. As one example, It provides nicely formatted reports that compare variations of these scenarios side-by-side, to see what small changes in interest rate represent in terms of cost, equity, and payment at each year in the term.

My one disappointment is that it did not allow me to plug in closing costs and effectively determine the resultant APR from these changes. This omission is the result of the near impossibility of determining so called “loan costs” for federal Truth In Lending purposes—a major problem even for seasoned mortgage professionals. Overall, it is a powerful loan analysis software package offering 11 different reports that are color-coded, and that heavily emphasize what-if scenarios. It even includes 80-10-10 and 80-15-5 loan programs.

While this product may appear to be a web-based application due to its use of Java and HTML, in reality it is mostly intended to be used as a stand-alone application. I found that the Java Runtime Environment loaded reasonably quickly. The program felt fast enough to enable me to run calculations in real time and quickly generate output. While helpful to have an Internet connection for viewing the icalc website for support, it is not essential.

The product is also available in a web-based server scenario, to be installed on your own website. The developers intend that the interface be installed at your website, and the Java application be invoked at their server via a direct inquiry from the user. Integrating the icalc web engine with your particular website only requires that three small HTML files be added to your site. These files can be easily customized if desired to adopt a custom look. Because icalc is a Java based program, the basic calculation “engine” can operate across different platforms (Unix, Windows, Mac), allowing other users to access the program using only a standard web browser as the interface.

This program is a good example of where software may be theoretically evolving: a relatively standard front end (web browser) retrieving information from a remote server that actually does the calculation. In this case, the customer (host website) appears to host the capability, but is in reality redirecting the consumer to another site for the actual calculation, all invisible to the end user. To the user, this all appears as if the information is coming from your own website, yet allows control of the version of the program by the developer, and provides licensing control over the paying users (all access to the web engine can be controlled at the server).

For the nominal cost, icalc can be a valuable adjunct to a loan officer trying to satisfy that detail oriented shopper, or for the webmaster desiring to add more power and panache to an otherwise average performing mortgage loan site.

by Stephen Breden

Calyx Point for Windows

POINT for Windows version 3.6a is the latest version of POINT from Calyx Software. There have been a number of improvements since I last reviewed this system.

POINT has always offered full conventional and FHA and VA processing for a very affordable price. The screens are easy to read and follow, tracking a file is simple, and the system can be mastered in a relatively short period of time. There is a complete set of FHA, VA, and conforming documents included. And where things don’t load across documents automatically, there are “cut and paste” options and “hot” buttons that will load information from one form into another to insure complete accuracy.

What Calyx Software has done with this latest version is to simply improve almost all aspects of their POINT program. In addition to being a simple to use processing and tracking system, this latest version of POINT has embraced much of the technology that will be needed to process loans quickly and efficiently as our industry continues to become more dependent on the Internet and computers to transfer and share loan information. In addition to the complete Desktop Originator and Loan Prospector interfaces, POINT now offers the ability to e-mail loan files so that they can be sent directly from the originator to processing or from processing to underwriting. This feature is not needed by everyone, but this may well be the common way to move loans from origination to processing and from processing to underwriting in the near future.

Some other improvements that will help process files more quickly today are new features that will allow the processor to print forms in customized groups of forms, eliminating the need to choose every form individually every time one is needed for a specific type of loan. Additionally, there is a customizable Shortcut Toolbar that lets users move more quickly from one section of the file to another. There are even more FHA and VA forms added and the new Georgia and Florida disclosures are now available in POINT 3.6 that were not available in version 3.5.

With POINT version 3.6, Calyx Software has allowed for more flexibility and customization than ever before. Users now have the option of customizing up to four screens with up to 25 customizable fields each. The fields used in each screen can be set as text, numeric, currency, percentages, phone numbers, and many others. There is even the ability to create drop down lists with multiple pre-sorted customized choices to allow processing and management to work as effectively as possible.

Another feature is Calyx Software’s POINT WebCaster. This is a do-it-yourself website creation and hosting service that provides stand-alone, full-service websites for mortgage companies. WebCaster has been designed to offer even the smallest company an affordable, easy to create, customized, and personalized website to help them compete with the “big guys.” With WebCaster, you can create your own home page, loan center, products and services, FAQs, and links. The loan center consists of an interview process that asks questions of the visitor and then uses a search engine to quickly find loan options, including down payment and interest rate. Visitors can even set up a user identification and personal password to store their data so they can re-use it when they return to the website.

WebCaster is also fully integrated with POINT. This integration allows you to select POINT programs and rates that you want shown on your site. WebCaster’s search engine will review all possible combinations and automatically present the best options for that particular borrower. The borrower can even complete a short loan application at any time that is e-mailed directly to you. When you open this application, POINT creates a Prospect file containing all of the information submitted by the borrower. This allows you to have all the information you will need on the borrower when you follow up with them.

There are no special skills needed to start using WebCaster to create your company’s website. There is no need to know HTML or any other special programming language. This is an easy-to-use program that allows just about anyone to create a sharp, professional looking website.

This latest version of POINT shows that the programmers at Calyx Software are working hard to bring affordable, well thought out processing software. Anyone who wants an affordable, web ready processing software program, should definitely look at POINT and WebCaster.

Program Overview
Name: POINT for Windows Ver. 3.6a
POINT WebCaster
Product Type: Processing, Origination and Marketing
Features: Mortgage origination
Complete mortgage processing
Prospect tracking and marketing
Website creation
System Req.: Windows 95, 98, or Windows NT 3.51/4.0, minimum 486 microprocessor, 16 MB RAM, 25 MB available hard disk space WebCaster requires Windows 95 or higher, POINT 3.6 or higher, Internet connection, and an e-mail address.
Price: POINT for Windows: 10-user site license $895, single upgrade $245.
$300 for first six months and $50 after that
Contact: Calyx Software, 800/362-2599,

by Lawrence K. Barber

Website Review

“The subtleties that contribute to visual aesthetics go beyond nice colors and layout consistency.”

Considering the typical three-second attention span humans have, a critical decision for a website designer is to pick the initial focal point of the site. The creators of have answered this with an image map depicting a map the United States. (An image map is not necessarily a map, it can be any graphic that has a defined area to click on.) Below the graphic is the caption “To Start Your Appraiser Search.” Not only is the map an easy place to focus, it also works as a natural sequence to get the user to interact with the site.

An image map is a form that functions as a group of hyperlinks. When your mouse hits various areas of the image map, it reads x and y coordinates. When you click the mouse, it activates your browser software to send the coordinates to a server. Let’s say that you are looking for a residential appraiser in Utah. When you click on the state, an Internet protocol called active server pages (ASP) locates and loads the screen that lets you search for an appraiser in the selected state. The page is an interactive form that accepts your search preferences. The form also uses ASP script to link to a database server that receives the uniform resource locator (URL) with the embedded search terms. Then the database retrieves the record or records that match the search criteria, sends it back to the web server, and then to your browser as a new HTML page. Options for search criteria start with residential or commercial appraiser, and then city or county (or both), and it will pull up matches from over 10,000 appraisers listed in the search engine.

Of course, locating an appraiser is the highlight of this site. Other features include the following: tips on hiring an appraiser, appraiser resources, and tools for mortgage brokers. The tips suggest things to ask when hiring an appraiser, including how much to pay and finding out if the appraiser has the appropriate data sources for the area and property type. The resources segment is primarily for appraisers and includes direct links to appraiser associations, E & O insurance companies, state licensing boards, and bulletin boards.

The tools option is an entirely different action. Rather than bringing up a new page as part of the FeeAppraiser site, it is a direct link to LoanPro eZDesk, which is a different website that features web tools for mortgage professionals. Linking to a different site is very common. The links are often offered in the form of a banner ad at the top of a web page or at the bottom as a link box.

The design of the site utilizes a very basic layout with a static action bar frame on the left portion of the screen containing large, action buttons. The buttons have a great 3-D effect triggered by mouse-over technology. The buttons appear to move in and out. I watched this 3-D action many times before I realized that they actually move diagonally about 1/32nd of an inch. The illusion is created by a disappearing shadow.

The rating for this site is excellent because it is attractive and functional. The subtleties that contribute to visual aesthetics go beyond nice colors and layout consistency. There is a delicate balance between too few and too many colors, fonts, and other elements. The designers of the FeeAppraiser site have done an exceptional job in finding this balance. Functionality is attributed to a basic design with consistency throughout the site and guaranteed orientation with the static option frame. It is also enhanced by the placement of the image map on the homepage, which pictorially previews the benefit of the site and prompts involvement on the part of the site visitor.

by Thor Skonnard

WinMerge Credit Reporting

“The reports were delivered in minutes to my computer in an easy to read, ready to print format, complete with credit scores and all the typical information you would expect to find on a credit report.”

This month’s program is WinMerge Credit Reporting System Version 4.03, a credit reporting software system from Information Network. This system has been designed to allow mortgage companies to order and receive credit reports directly from three credit reporting repositories without going through an intermediary company.

WinMerge allows the user to order single repository credit reports, two repository merged reports, or a tri-merged credit report that most companies are using today. The reports can even be merged directly into the most popular mortgage processing software, which is used by many mortgage companies. The merging of credit reports is done using a credit merger program in WinMerge, which identifies duplicate trades then merges the bureaus files into a single report.

The system set up only took a few minutes, with some required phone help from information network’s service department. Once the proper passwords and reporting formats were completed, I was able to order credit reports immediately. The reports were delivered in minutes to my computer in an easy to read, ready to print format, complete with credit scores and all the typical information you would expect to find on a credit report. The reports are automatically saved in the system for future reference or re-ordering as a residential mortgage credit report (RMCR). To keep the system from becoming too crowded with old reports, there is an automatic delete feature that can be set up to automatically remove all reports older than a specified time, such as 60- or 90-days.

WinMerge has been designed to be very user friendly, with easy to use buttons that complete every task with a simple click of the mouse. To order a credit report, you click “New,” enter the borrower’s information, select which bureau and options you desire, then click “Connect,” which starts the modem dialer program and the credit report merger program in WinMerge. Within minutes, you have the borrower’s credit report. Once the report has been received, it can be viewed on screen, printed to obtain a hard copy, or merged into your processing software.

To find a report at a later date you can click on “Find,” type the borrower’s last name into the “Select” box, click “Name,” and a list of all borrowers with that name appears. When you double click on the desired borrower, the report appears on screen. Searches of past credit reports can also be conducted by using a borrower’s social security number, user login ID, or the date the report was ordered.

Complete control of WinMerge is found in the “Administration” button. From there, access to the system can be controlled by clicking on “Edit User Names–Passwords,” which allows the assignment of passwords to the various users and to control their access rights. Users can be added or deleted as management deems necessary. The “Administration” button also allows for the maintenance of company branches and loan officer names so they can be printed in the header of the credit report. Editing of this feature allows complete control of necessary additions and deletions.

WinMerge has complete interface capabilities to order and to retrieve credit reports directly from Point by Calyx, Contour, BYTE, and Genesis 2000. You simply go to the “Administration” button, click on “Interfaces,” then click on the desired processing software. You can export a credit file directly into an existing or new borrower or prospect file as needed.

If you need to order a RMCR after you have previously run someone’s credit, it is simple to do through one of Information Network’s production facilities. WinMerge automatically calls your assigned production center and uploads the borrower’s credit data from the merged report previously completed. Information Network’s credit processors then create a RMCR from the same data in the merged report. Once completed, the RMCR is sent through an electronic mail box to be retrieved automatically upon your next visit.

With the “Communications” button, you can use the “Check for e-mail” button to retrieve RMCRs from the production center, WinMerge Program Updates, WinMerge Database changes, and other information. WinMerge also comes with an Internet web browser that can be found under the “Communications” button. To use this browser, you will need to have your own Internet service provider.

I found this system to be easy to use and the credit reports easier to read than what I currently get from my in-file machine. This is a program that does what all mortgage companies currently have, but in a better and more controlled way.

by Lawrence K. Barber

Technology Consultant David Reed answers your questions

Dear David,
How do online meetings work? We have several offices, some of them big and some of them small and I was thinking of doing our training and meetings using Microsoft’s new product.
Diane S., Dallas, Texas

You’re talking about Microsoft’s Live Meeting application.  They have a competitor called WebEx, and they essentially accomplish the same thing.  What you are doing is having a meeting and reviewing the same information, but instead of getting in a car or plane you’re logging onto your computer and watching the meeting instead.  It works like this:

The presenter, or host of the meeting sends out invitations in the form of an e-mail.  In the e-mail is a link that takes you to a site where you log in with a specially provided ID and password.  When you get logged into the site, you’ll see the presenter’s computer screen.  If you’ve gone to a seminar and watched someone make a presentation on a big screen that projects what their laptop is doing, then you’ve experienced this technology.  Whatever the presenter does on his or her computer, you’re watching along in real time.

For example, you want to go over last month’s origination numbers and look at forecasts for the next quarter.  You also want to show your ales staff a new software application and a PowerPoint presentation.  Instead of loading everyone in the car and driving to the meeting, you send out e-mail invitations.  Your “attendees” log onto the LiveMeeting console and watch their computer screens as you show them the presentation that you created on your computer. What you do is what they see.

You can log onto the Internet and take them on a tour of various Web sites, open a PowerPoint slideshow, or anything that you would normally do with everyone in the room—except this time you’re doing it only on your computer while everyone else watches.  It’s really pretty neat.

One thing that Microsoft doesn’t do, however, is provide the audio.  Your personnel can log onto the LiveMeeting site but they won’t be able to hear you. They’ll only be able to see your mouse move across the screen and whatever else you do during the presentation. All sight and no sound.  So you need to provide your own audio conferencing. Why Microsoft set it up that way is beyond me, but I’ll be they’re working on an Internet-based phone service to accommodate.

LiveMeeting can cost about $300 per month if you have three to five users, but can be more or less than that, depending upon your usage requirements. Whatever it is, it’s probably a lot cheaper than hauling everyone in for a meeting.

For audio capabilities in the mean time, you need to provide audio through a telephone.  If you go to a company called Data Concepts Teleconferencing Services, you can set up an account for the audio portion as well, and it works with LiveMeeting. Essentially, you provide the time and date that attendees should call in, and Free Conference does the rest. It doesn’t cost you anything.  Actually, it costs those who dial in the for meeting.  The telephone number provided by Free Conference is a standard toll call, which charges regular phone rates.   Free Conference buys phone time at a huge discount, then your attendees pay retail for it.  It works just like your wholesale lender in that regard.

Dear David,
What are some criteria to consider when choosing a cellular phone plan?  I have 12 loan officers and I was thinking of how best to analyze cellular phone plans.
Mark H., Buffalo, N.Y.

You and about 235 million others. It’s so confusing that it’s hard to make a comparison, in my view. It’s very much like the lending business, don’t you think?  Lots of terminology consumers don’t understand, we have the ability to raise rates and lower fees or raise fees and lower rates.  We can also quote prepaid and non-prepaid costs and maybe even throw the annual percentage rate to clear things up a bit.

I know I’m getting a little off-topic, but comparing cell phone plans is very similar to what a consumer does when he or she tries to compare lenders.  It’s almost impossible, so usually what happens is you close your eyes and throw at a dart board. With that in mind, try making the comparison the same way you would suggest to your consumers to compare loans.

Determine your requirements. How many phones do you need, and what features are available under the plan? What types of phones do they offer? How much time is used during the day versus the night and weekends?  Do you get charged when calling each others’ numbers or is it free?  I would take that first written quote then show it to the next cellular phone company. Then the next one. Do it the very same way borrowers do when they show you your competitor’s Good Faith Estimate. Put very simply, the only way to find the best plan is to shop and compare.

Creating Your Own Web Site

Ten years ago, building and hosting a Web site would have been a difficult and expensive undertaking.  However, with more competition among Web-hosting entities and with software programs that create Web sites, it has become easy and affordable.  Managing your own Web site would not only save you a lot of money, but the best part is having total control.  When you decide to add or change something, you can just make the change yourself.

To get started, you need to obtain a domain name.  This is a name that people enter in their browser and it will point to your Web site.  It will be unique to the entire Internet and you own the right to use it exclusively. For many years, a company called Network Solutions had a monopoly on registering and protecting domain names.  Today, there are hundreds of companies that provide this service for a fraction of the original cost.

The first step is to find out if the domain name is available. The sites mentioned above have a field where you can enter a name to see if it is already registered.  If you want and it is not available, you can try, or  You can also back order a name in case the current owner decides not to renew it.

Next, you need a place to put your Web site where in can be accessed.  This would be a host computer, called a server, with Internet access.  In theory you could handle this part yourself, but it would not be practical.  For a few dollars a month you can get a basic package that includes minimal server space and e-mail.  The domain sites mentioned above also have Web-hosting packages and site building “wizards,” which walk you through the process.  It is simply a matter of comparing the costs with the features.  One thing I would check out in advance is the quality and accessibility of their 24/7 support.  My personal favorite is, for this reason.  While there is no absolute advantage to registering your domain name and hosting your Web site with the same company, it is convenient.  Brinkster has a package that includes the Web hosting and one domain for $7.95 a month.

Now that we have a name and a place to put our Web site, we need to build one.  An easy way is to use a Web building wizard.  Hosting companies typically include a method that lets you select a template and fill in the blanks with text and pictures.  You don’t have to build anything and you don’t have to know anything about how Web sites work.  The downside to this is lack of flexibility.  Also, you will have a cookie cutter image.  This might be something to start with, but eventually you will want to build your own custom site.  The good news is that software companies have made this incredibly easy.

Front Page by Microsoft and Dreamweaver by Macromedia are two “what you see is what you get” Web creation programs.  With either of these, you can build a Web site from scratch without any knowledge of HTML (hypertext markup language).  HTML is the code that drives a Web site.  You can see what the code looks like by right clicking on a Web page and select “view source.”  Here is a short example:  <meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″>.  Assuming that you don’t have time to learn a new language, then you can let the software programs deal with this.  They build the code for you with an object driven interface.  It is a lot like using a publishing program where you use the mouse to draw a text box or a picture box on the screen.  The HTML is generated as you go.  The programs also handle the task of creating links that take you to other pages or to load pictures or open an e-mail account.  They let you preview your work in your Web browser, so you can see exactly how your site will look on the Internet. When you setup the program, running a wizard saves the Internet address of your Web host and remembers where your saved files are in your computer.  So, when you are ready to “publish” or upload the creation to your Web hosting site, it is a simple matter of clicking on a couple buttons and the software will link to your hosting site and send your selected pages to the Internet.

Something that I really like about the Macromedia product is that they have other tools that integrate with Dreamweaver. Flash is a tool for creating animation files that can be added to your site.  Balancing bandwidth and content is an ongoing issue with a Web site.  You want to put a lot of cool stuff in it, but put in too much and it will take forever to load. Fireworks is a graphics creation and optimization tool.  You can load a .jpg and then trim the file size down to a minimum, without losing quality.  An easy way to find out if Dreamweaver is for you is to go to and download the free 30 day trial.  The licensed version is only $399.

Your Web site may not immediately rival the professionally designed sites that you can buy or rent for thousands of dollars.  It probably won’t have embedded calculators or interactive graphics, but it can have a lot of useful tools, including information about your loan programs and interest rates. You could include a page with links to affiliates, including sites of your Realtors.  Another idea would be to add a showcase of homes in your area.  You could list homes by address and sales price, with thumbnail pictures of the property.   When the user clicks on the little picture, it would trigger loading a bigger picture.  You could also upload pdfs (portable document file) of printed open house fliers to a storage folder in your hosting site.  This saves screen-loading time, but when the user clicks on the link to the pdf they can view and print it with Adobe Reader.  Your Real Estate agents would love the additional exposure and it would also show your loan programs associated with the listing.  You can also use your site to promote FSBO listings.

The key to all of this is to be able to manage your own site.  Whether you use a site-building wizard or software program, the money you save is a plus, but control is another key advantage.  If you have to go to a third party every time you want to add a listing promo or a link to an affiliate site, it becomes impractical.  But if you can make the changes in your own computer and immediately publish the addition to your Web site, there is no limit to what you can do.  Once you get the hang of it, you will probably think of many ways to enhance your visibility and productivity.  And, I think that you will find that it is a lot of fun.

The Case for Electronic Signing

The U.S. Congress and the various States enabled electronic signatures in the mid 1990’s, which in technology terms is just a little bit short of forever.  Electronic signatures can replace traditional handwritten signatures on financial, legal, medical, and other business documents.  Properly created electronic signatures assure each party of:

  • Integrity—The data/document isn’t changed between the sender and receiver.
  • Authenticity—The document really came from the signer.
  •  Non-Repudiation—The document sender cannot support any claim they did not send it or that the content was altered.
  • Acceptance—Signing establishes the signer’s agreement with the document.

So why aren’t you using this powerful production enhancement tool already?

Some Important Considerations
For electronic signatures to be accepted globally, a secure technology standard was established utilizing a proven cryptographic system. This system uses a private key, known only to the signer, to create the electronic signature, and a public key, available to all intended receivers, to verify the digital signature.

One property of any signing is its uniqueness to that event.  A signature may create legal consequences and multiple signatures may create multiple obligations, such as by signing two checks for $500 each, you create a total obligation of $1,000.  However, in two identically worded documents where “A” agrees to lend and “B” agrees borrow on a mortgage for a property, then there will most likely be a single contract even if multiple signed copies exist.  This operational decision heavily depends on the contents of the signed document.

It may be critical to distinguish between originals and any copies, to prevent the copies from being taken for distinct obligations. Successful digital signature technologies must include a capability to distinguish between an original and its copies whenever that distinction is significant.

The centuries-old means of documenting transactions and creating signatures are changing. Documents are often still written on paper, sometimes just to satisfy the legal need for a recognized form. In many instances, much of the information exchanged to effect a transaction never takes paper form. Appraisals in Adobe PDF format are a common example, with a number of lenders now requiring this format instead of traditional paper appraisals.  Computer-based information can be utilized differently than its paper counterpart. Only human eyes can efficiently read paper documents, but computers can read digital information and take designed actions based on the contents.  With such changes can come speed and efficiency, but there are also opportunities for fraud and deception.

What About the Notary Function?
A notary’s journal is a series of numbered, sequential records of each act of that notary. Much more than just a list of recorded event dates, the numbered sequential order of each entry adds integrity since a new entry cannot be “slipped in” between two previous ones. The way a notary book is bound ensures that pages cannot be inserted or removed without visible evidence of such tampering.

Such standard features of paper-based notary technology must survive for an e-notarization system to be accepted for use in a given jurisdiction. If electronic records can be modified at all, then the system has no integrity. When choosing an e-notary system, make sure that each entry is numbered according to the time of its entry and that entries or pages cannot be inserted or deleted.

Notary regulations vary between jurisdictions.  An electronic notary system must be customizable enough to meet the demands of differing jurisdictions.  For example, California requires a fingerprint on some types of notarized documents, where Oregon might view fingerprint collection as an invasion of privacy.  A notary system that requires a fingerprint will not satisfy users in both states, and a system that does not may cause some California records to be incomplete. Therefore, electronic notary technology must allow the responsible party to custom-tailor the notary application as required for each jurisdiction.

Most states require that the notary observe the signer making their signature, which will require some sort of valid physical presence at the signing.  This is done so the notary can observe for competence, coercion, or any other outside influences that could affect the validity of the signature. As if that were not enough, the U.S. exists in a world market.  To that end, the American Bar Association has established a Cybernotary Subcommittee to address creating a universal standard for electronic signature acceptance.  The subcommittee has “focused its efforts on defining the scope of electronic notarial practice, setting qualification criteria, and working with individuals and organizations to ensure acceptance of CyberNotarial acts in the U.S. and abroad.”

Other Uses
But aren’t there other, perhaps simpler, uses?  What about using electronic signatures on origination packages, or to sign initial and updated disclosure forms or agreements?  Can that be done?  Well, you get a definite “maybe.”

Some electronic signature systems require physical presence and a signing pad or tool for the customer to use.  Other systems are web based and require only that the signer have Internet access to review and sign any documents (See sidebar for resources).  Your intended use of such systems will help you decide the best approach for your company.

Utilization is still minor within our industry, perhaps due to the concerns and potential problems that still need further review.  As the eMortgage reality comes closer and closer, you may not want to just wait around.

The average mortgage customer is a generation younger than those of us providing mortgage lending and making process decisions.  Customers will naturally gravitate to those suppliers that make the process the easiest to use and understand.

Electronic Signature Resources

AlphaTrust Corporation

American Bar Assn

Angel Infinity, Inc.

DocuSign, Inc

Interlink Electronics, Inc

Topaz Systems

Valyd, Inc


Credit to Bruce Forge


In recent years, many larger brokers have been attempting to bridge the gap from broker to banker.  A key issue faced by these companies is the need to manage their loan data residing in their loan origination systems, and achieve a level of control not available in their internal tracking systems.  DataTrac™, from Del Mar Database, provides a total solution for managing the data involved with taking a loan from the prequalification stages of a lead to the final stages of mortgage banking.  It not only provides a total database structure accessible to all areas of the banking enterprise, it allows tracking and accountability of changes made to the database, providing that final control element that is missing from more basic tracking systems.

DataTrac’s™ database architecture is 32-bit based, scalable from a small office to a very large enterprise, and is specifically targeted at managing information relating to all aspects of a mortgage banking operation.  This capability includes underwriting, closing, secondary marketing, shipping, accounting, insuring, and sub-servicing.  DataTrac is also designed to manage the information coming in from a variety of sources, including brokers, escrow/title companies, appraisers, and other inputs that become part of a final mortgage transaction.

The DataTrac system is developed in Visual FoxPro, and provides several different database solutions, depending on the size of the associated enterprise.  For lenders who distribute their back-office lending functions across multiple offices, DataTrac can run over a shared server environment, such as Citrix or Terminal Services.  Another option for multi-office organizations is to use an enterprise version of DataTrac that leverages Microsoft SQL Server to expose the loan data over a wide area network.

DataTrac provides total control and auditing of data entry into the system, definable by user or department.  A “granular approach” allows access control of individual fields, reports, and functions at the user level.  Users can be granted full rights, read only, or no access to information, and those rights can change as the loan progresses through the lending process, ensuring maximum data security and integrity of the database.

Del Mar Database’s consulting group can help develop business rules, create custom reports, and assist with the configuration of the multi-level security system to provide a solution customized for each mortgage banking operation.

The reporting function allows near instant access of information through over 350 canned reports provided with the program. Additionally, lenders can easily add custom reports if needed.

Some specific areas managed with DataTrac include:

Underwriting:  Approval notices, submission stats, conditions management, suspense and denial notices, and HMDA reporting information.

Secondary Marketing: Lock confirmations and pricing, commitment positions, pools and securities, investor reporting, loan reconciliation, and overall impact on loan pipeline. Later this year, Del Mar Database will be releasing a version that automatically calculates the pricing adjustments for each loan.

Closing Documents:  Integrated with a variety of doc drawing programs to eliminate data duplication, reports on docs that have been drawn, manages fees and impound/escrow data, and exports data to outside document preparation services.

Funding:  Funding sheets, reports and statistics, and calculation of wire amounts and aggregate impound amounts that are so essential to this type of operation.

Accounting:  Broker and loan officer commission calculations and reports, 1098 and 1099 exports, trust account management, purchase advise reconciliation, and warehouse line management.

Interim Servicing:  Impound accounts, payment processing, servicer reporting, data export, first payment coupons, and delinquency reporting and account reconciliation.

Shipping:  Investor assignment and document packaging, loan status tracking, transfer letters and loan sale notices, and overall pipeline management.

Other:  Overall quality control and HMDA, legal document tracking, file room management.  The provided Business Intelligence reports give immediate access to the specific information needed, whether it be by specific branch, user, or particular loan.

DataTrac is a Windows based client/server application.  The program allows multiple users to update a single loan record simultaneously, while maintaining the ability to audit and track these changes.

DataTrac specifically interfaces with a variety of other parties to the mortgage transaction; allowing it to become the central data hub, while empowering the full use of these other products.  DataTrac should be seriously considered by any larger broker making that jump to mortgage banker, or any banker still not enjoying the power of centralized, secure data management.

Name:  DataTrac
Product Type: Enterprise loan-management tracking

  • A master database “of record” with auditing and security
  • Intuitive, easy to use interface
  • Extensive reporting capabilities

System Requirements:  Windows 2000 Professional, or Windows XP Professional for workstation, Windows 2000 or 2003 Server.
Price:  Starting at approximately $20,000, depending on licensing and configuration

User-friendly Technology

Seven technologies we could start using today to be more productive.

As successful originators, we are intoxicated by the arrival of new technologies that promise to revolutionize our personal lifestyles and professional workflows. However, things can move so fast that we don’t even stop and take advantage of the trends that have matured to the point that they are no longer “new” but are ready for everyday use. I want to highlight seven practical technology applications available today and encourage you to consider using some of them every day.

Speech Recognition in Word Processing
Only five years ago, this seemed like an idle dream, to be available in some future unknown time. The idea that one could dictate a document through a microphone and have that information turned into some semblance of intelligible text seemed laughable. The irony is that with so many false starts, the public is reluctant to even try this technology now, when it actually has reached some degree of usability. Microsoft Office XP includes this capability, and setup and configuration took me only half an hour when I tried it recently with a cheap headset on a two-year-old office PC. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to achieve usable text output into Microsoft Word when I spoke at a comfortably slow rate, and found I could even give it standard commands such as to start a new paragraph, or to delete the prior word if I changed my mind.

The price of this capability is that users must train their particular copy of Word to the individual nuances of one voice, and use a headset with a boom microphone in a fairly quiet location to achieve reliable results of over 90 percent. Considering how slowly most people type, and the amount of mistakes that they make, this would appear to be a tool with a high degree of usability for many busy executives.

This technology has made remarkable strides in other areas as well. I am pleased with how well some customer service operations such as American Airlines and Sprint PCS use voice recognition, and how well it works. M.O.M.’s technology editor, Bruce Forge, has been reachable with an electronic attendant using voice recognition for several years, and I continually marvel at just how well his “receptionist” seems to understand questions and take notes, and how she never seems to have any attitude whatsoever.

Flat Panel Displays
Since my youth, I have heard promises of flat screen technology coming just around the corner and replacing the large, unwieldy displays that are based on 60-year-old vacuum tube technology—the lone holdouts in what has become almost exclusively a solid-state world (electronics based on silicon-based semiconductor devices). Unfortunately, it has proven generally impractical until very recently to replace these devices with thin, flat panels that take less space, weigh less, and offer breathtaking picture quality without any visible distortion. I was so impressed with these displays that a year ago I recommended to a major networking client that she replace all conventional monitors with LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors as normal attrition and growth occurred. Today, about half of our employees have LCD monitors, even though at $600 apiece, one could buy three or four conventional monitors.

These monitors are worth every dime; I bought one myself for the workstation where I do most of my writing and online activity. The flat monitors simply provide a more pleasing environment and offer less eyestrain than the older-style monitors. Considering how long a company may keep this type of device, I recommend that any new computer acquisitions automatically include an LCD monitor.

In the pure entertainment world of large screen television, we are probably still a few years away from a cost-effective phasing in of flat panel displays, but they are already very evident in small screen configurations for the bedroom or desktop. I would expect that we are only a few years away from seeing flat screen displays everywhere, but even now, they are completely viable for the average workstation in a mortgage company.

Office and Home Networking
All big offices have had local area networks for the past decade, and even a lot of small offices have acquired this capability. While it may appear more or less obvious to a lot of mortgage operations, it is really amazing how many smaller offices have yet to adopt this now very mature technology.

Networking two or three workstations together in a small office environment provides a multitude of capabilities that add to productivity. First, the wiring together of these computers will allow a single printer to be used by all of the computers in this so-called “workgroup” environment. If one user has files to share on his workstation, it is easy for other members of the workgroup to get access to review, modify, or print these files. A single Internet connection, high speed or otherwise, may be shared by all of the members of this workgroup. Most importantly, the loan origination system in the office can put all of the files that are active into one location.

The ability to put all of the files in one location is absolutely pivotal to the control of files in a mortgage office. Without a network, it is impossible to maintain good control over the “master” copy of a file. Having graduated from this situation to a network myself in 1993, it always amazes me just how important a step this really was in maturing beyond one office and effectively controlling the workflow.

This advantage even extends now into home offices, should you want to network several computers belonging to family members. The same basic rule applies: as long as you maintain a simple peer-to-peer workgroup (no dedicated server), a competent amateur or fairly low-level professional can be hired to set this up. You will want a professional networking person when you graduate beyond 10 machines into a server environment, which requires an entirely different level of hardware, software, and professional expertise.

An important corollary of all this is the recent arrival of wireless networking for both the home and office. Wireless connectivity is now inexpensive and allows the business user to operate a laptop in a truly mobile environment (in a conference room, for example) or to add new workstations easily even when additional wired connections are not available in the office. There are some security considerations that should be accounted for, however, and it is important to run encryption and be aware of the potential for eavesdropping from other individuals within range of these types of connections.

Backing Up Data
Unbelievably, a large percentage of small offices do not back up their data. There are only two kinds of mortgage offices: those that have already lost their data due to an equipment failure (usually the hard drive), theft, or fire, and those that are going to eventually lose their data. I learned this lesson the hard way when I lost an entire year’s worth of loan files by deciding to “learn” on my office PC without first backing up the data.

Several really great tools allow non-technical people to make daily or weekly backups of their indispensable data, usually loan origination files and key documents. A Zip drive is one great solution that allows users to insert a small diskette into an internal or external drive to be automatically copied. This can be done manually or with very inexpensive software, and it allows the office to move some of these backup files offsite to allow for the possibility of theft or fire.

The best all-around solution for the daily backup is to copy across your network from one drive on one machine to a different machine. This can be automated, is more reliable that other backup systems, and will allow for the restoration of data in the shortest time.

Instant Messaging
When I first used AOL’s text-based instant messaging feature a few years ago, I thought it was great fun but did not take it seriously. That was until I saw one of my major clients using it effectively in communications within her main and branch offices. I discovered that instant messaging is really the secret weapon for new communications technology on the Internet.

What is so unique about instant messaging (other than the fact that it is free) is its ability to allow what I call parallel communications: the user may carry on a phone call and still take important messages from the screen as needed. Since most of us cannot take two phone calls at once, we limit our accessibility during the work day by being unavailable for phone calls because it is a time-consuming, hit-or-miss process to get through when we need to. With instant messaging, we have the unthinkable in a communications system: instant access to others, complete control over whom we take messages from, the ability to filter recipients and callers at will, and above all, the ability to manage more than one session at a time.

In the last month I have been heavily involved with an online training program for a software company and have frequently been writing in PowerPoint while on the phone and taking several different messages from other key individuals around the country—all at the same time. I am completely sold on the overall benefits of the use of text-based instant messaging. I have even found the video and audio conferencing features, including online file transfers, to be of real value between two individuals if they have high-speed connections. However, only a dialup connection is required for online text chat. I have even used it from airports and in meetings while wired to the Internet with my wireless PCS phone-based modem in my laptop with a slow-speed connection.

Mobile- and Office-based Contact Management
I think the business world in general has missed a major productivity tool by not using contact management software more frequently. While I personally use ACT!, I have also used Goldmine and would highly recommend both. When you combine this type of software with two other tools that are available and affordable, some interesting possibilities arise.

Sprint PCS and other carriers now offer an integrated phone and Palm Pilot. While I have consistently stated that palm-top PCs are toys for the most part, I have also said that the one major exception to this rule is their ability to be used as portable contact management systems. If the device is synchronized with a desktop PC, users can carry a current copy of contacts and phone numbers with them at all times, a capability that is an absolute must for marketing and sales people who desire mobility.

When this Palm Pilot is integrated with the phone itself, a user can instantly dial phone numbers from the contact management software, and immediately dial that number through the mobile phone. Gone is the additional step of looking up the number and then dialing the phone, or of running a cable or infrared link between the two to make sure the phone has the latest phone numbers. Another worthwhile variation of this theme is the use of voice recognition technology to allow the user to call a phone number up by name from the portable phone, a solution that might appeal to many.

This is one case in which the user actually has several viable choices. My fundamental recommendation is to use contact management as a part of your workflow and integrate it into your mobile phone as you find convenient. I have a very light briefcase that I use when I leave the office; it holds my PCS phone and subnotebook (a small laptop optimized for light weight and size, with the ability to all on peripherals such as a CD drive and floppy disk drive). I run the subnotebook in hibernation so that I may restart it in only 20 seconds when I need to look up numbers or check my schedule. I then synchronize this laptop back in my office to the desktop PC with a wireless network connection.

Electronic Bill Pay
I have been a user of Quicken financial software for over a decade, and have used electronic bill pay on it for at least the last five years. I seriously question how any small businessperson without a bookkeeper can reasonably keep up with the demands of paying bills and managing accounts without the services offered by electronic bill pay.

While this service may have been pioneered by companies like Intuit, today most major banks offer a Web-based method of paying bills online. All of these systems allow the customer to schedule bills out to a predetermined date and to schedule regular recurring payments and set a fixed payment schedule. A key advantage of electronic bill pay is the ability to schedule out a payment for a day or two before it is due, for maximum use of your personal cash flow, while never worrying about actually being late in making a payment. Another advantage is the highly reliable trail of information available when you need to confirm payment and the details surrounding a transaction.

Paying bills by snail mail with the higher degree of human error involved, and the higher cost, and increased lack of security, makes absolutely no sense when one can pay electronically with the degree of security and convenience available with electronic bill pay.

If you look into one of more of these tools and start using them in your office, you can potentially increase your production while becoming more organized and improving communications with your customers. These individual pieces of the technology puzzle are readily available—why not see how one or more of them can help you?


Future Technologies
The following three technologies will soon hit the shelves and give you even more reasons and methods for improving operations in your mortgage business:

  • Document storage and retrieval—High-speed scanners, coupled with efficient cataloguing software, will integrate paper flow with loan files and eliminate the flood of copies that are routinely produced, while offering more rapid retrieval of indexed information, with the ability to generate “copies” as needed. Utilizing PDF files and high compression image formats will guarantee the integrity of scanned information, and the generation of documents that are for all purposes originals, not copies.
  • Alternative identification techniques—As advanced as we have become, we still rely on human signatures for verification of the authenticity of legal agreements and other written communications. It is only a matter of time before encrypted digital signatures, handwriting recognition, retinal and fingerprint scanning, and several other techniques replace the unreliable paperwork system that is still rooted in the use of a centuries-old system requiring a manual signature. Coupled with electronic document storage, we may finally see the reduction we have all long sought in the amount of paperwork generated in the typical mortgage company.
  • Completely automated software upgrading and repair—We all laugh at this idea today, as we undertake the hassle we know we are in for when we have to upgrade our computer operating systems and applications software. We are making progress into turning these machines into appliances. We can look forward to computer systems that automatically load updates, replace and remove modules as needed, and repair and renovate automatically without a Microsoft engineer having to be present every time. This goal is the longest term one that I suggest, but perhaps the most critical. In time, artificial intelligence and smart software will remove us all from our part-time jobs of computer technicians and put the entire repair and upgrade process into the background, where it really belongs.