Workflow Systems:

By Valentine, Lisa | ABA Banking Journal, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Workflow Systems:


Valentine, Lisa, ABA Banking Journal


Lisa Valentine, contributing editor, who writes from Ballston Spa, N.Y.

When it comes to passing around paper, there few industries that outdo the mortgage industry. Creating, receiving, and managing the correct documentation for even a simple mortgage can take on a life of its own.

The consequences of not producing the correct documents for a mortgage can be severe. A missing or incomplete document can delay a closing, or it can delay the sale of a mortgage to the secondary market.

The emerging discipline of workflow technology holds much promise for taming the mortgage industry's paper dragon. Workflow technology can be complex; but, in a nutshell, it combines document management, routing, and queuing with document imaging. Workflow technology is best suited for processes that involve multiple users and is ideal when work needs to be distributed quickly and efficiently. A workflow-enabled mortgage origination system, for example, can automatically forward a loan application to the appropriate underwriter based on the loan amount, or automatically request mortgage insurance based on the amount of the downpayment.

Workflow technology can also provide line workers with quick access to information. Because the entire loan file--including documents--is stored electronically, it can be viewed by originators, appraisers, and closers simultaneously. Customer questions can be answered on the spot. While workflow technology can provide better access to information and improved customer service, the benefit most often cited by proponents is improved productivity.

Because the workflow system manages requests for information automatically, and concurrently if needed, humans can do work as it is presented, and not waste time sending and receiving documents via interoffice mail, overnight delivery, or faxes.

"The biggest time [waster] is sending documents out, and waiting for them to come back," says Eric Burnett, president and CEO, of IA Systems, Albany, N.Y. Adds Michael Coar, president of IWE (Innovative Workflow Engineering), McClean, Va., "We looked at processes that took six days that only required 20 minutes of real work." Both companies offer workflow systems.

Workflow in action

Here's how a typical mortgage origination process would go using workflow technology: The lender originates the loan at the point of sale, possibly using a laptop computer. The customer sends bank statements, employment records, and the like to the lenders or operations center, where the documents are immediately scanned into the system.

The automated underwriting system determines what steps need to be followed next. Since documents are scanned, indexed, and available electronically, any one involved with the loan can view information without having to locate the physical file.

The system sends out a request for title insurance.

Once the title insurance is received, and the paperwork scanned in, the system automatically checks that document off the list of needed documents.

If the document is not returned by a certain time, the workflow system will take some action-perhaps will re-send--request, or pass the request to a human. The system can also automatically receive and send faxes, as well as initiate tasks based on the receipt of a fax. In addition, a workflow system helps people determine their tasks and priorities for the day.

Users will see the number of outstanding items they have, for example, and how long the items have been in the system. Users can sort and manipulate their to-do lists.

Workflow is a major component for servicing systems. Because there are often many departments in a servicing center, each specializing in a particular area such as escrow management, customer service, taxes, and lien requests must be routed to different departments. Servicers also have huge volumes, and can't afford to follow it all manually. …

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