REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 10, 2000 — This past January, Niraj Patel faced one of the biggest challenges of his career. The executive committee where he works at General Motors Acceptance Corporation Commercial Mortgage (GMACCM) asked him to start an Internet-based commercial mortgage service with just three people. And the committee wanted the entire company up and running in just three months.
In need of a ready-to-use solution, Patel talked to a number of major computer companies who offer e-commerce Web technology, including Sun Microsystems and other vendors. In the end, however, GMACCM chose the combination of Microsoft .NET Enterprise Server software, the Pocket PC platform and Intel-based servers as the basis for its new company — MortgageRamp.
The choice allowed GMACCM to build its online lending solution in record time.
“We started building the company in January, and we launched the MortgageRamp site at the end of March,”
said Patel, who is now CIO of GMACCM.
“That’s right, just three of us building an entire company — not just the technology — in three months. You can see that we couldn’t afford to play around when we selected partners to help develop our technical infrastructure.”
Since its launch in March, MortgageRamp has revolutionized the commercial mortgage lending cycle by greatly speeding up the process, Patel said. Using a complete Web-based solution for loan origination, MortgageRamp brings together industry-leading lenders — such as Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Allied Capital and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter — with brokers, borrowers, vendors, appraisers, inspectors and engineers to exchange information, post reports and make real-estate financial decisions.
Prospective borrowers and brokers come to the Web site and fill out a short application form. The site then returns a list of lenders that match the criteria. The borrower selects the lender that meets its needs and relays the information back to MortgageRamp, which validates the loan request and prepares it to be underwritten. Appraisals, title reports and inspections are ordered at this point. Within about a week, MortgageRamp sends the selected lender the complete loan information packaged in the lender’s own submission format. The result: what once took an average of 90 to 120 days now typically takes 10 days or fewer, Patel said.
“With a traditional commercial loan, all the information-gathering done in the field — by inspectors, appraisers and engineers — took a lot of time because the inspections were all triggered items,”
“All these jobs were done sequentially. Now all the information activities operate in parallel.”
To speed up the loan process even further, GMACCM plans to implement up to 3,000 Pocket PCs by the end of this year to streamline services that must be conducted outside the office, such as inspections, reports and appraisals. Before appraisers and inspectors leave the office, for example, they will be able to synchronize their Pocket PCs with the MortgageRamp Web site, allowing them to obtain all the necessary forms they need, plus property addresses, driving instructions and information about comparable properties in the area. After inspecting the property, inspectors will be able to electronically send their completed reports to the central loan database from the field, greatly shortening the loan origination cycle.
“The really compelling aspect of bringing .NET technology into play with handheld devices is that it’s not just the technology, and it’s not just the process,”
“It’s process, it’s technology and it’s people working together to get the job done.”
GMAC chose Microsoft technologies and Intel-based servers because it allowed MortgageRamp to meet its aggressive timeline while still meeting its high standards for quality.
“We interviewed the whole field, but only Microsoft, Compaq, Cisco and Intel were willing to step up to the plate and say, ‘Yes, we’ll deliver for you,'”
said Michael Greco, CEO of MortgageRamp.
“They were the only companies able to supply a complete, end-to-end solution — from scalable .NET Enterprise Server software to the rich Pocket PC devices and powerful Intel-based servers — within the necessary timeframe.”
Nearly all the hardware and software offered by Intel and Microsoft was available off-the-shelf, and could be quickly and easily integrated, Patel said. And because Windows-based tools are the market standard, what software developers needed to customize for MortgageRamp could be done quickly and cheaply.
Another factor that weighed into GMACCM’s decision to go with Microsoft and Intel was the technology’s ability to work together seamlessly with new solutions. Because its system is based on XML, MortgageRamp will easily be able to incorporate future business opportunities based on .NET services provided by Microsoft and others without completely reengineering its system.
“The interoperability was really easy because we standardized everything to XML standards, anticipating further adoption of Microsoft .NET platform technologies,”
Still another factor the new company considered was reliability. MortgageRamp needed a system that was always up and running and provides immediate access to data at all times, and what it got from Microsoft and Intel is an e-business solution that is up and running 99.999 percent of the time.
“We wanted borrowers to have the same high quality of experience with MortgageRamp as they would if they physically went to a top-flight bank,”
“Tried-and-tested servers from Compaq based on Intel architecture and the Microsoft platform gave us a system with the high availability and reliability we demanded.”
Finally, MortgageRamp wanted a system that could expand to accommodate its growing needs. GMACCM plans to expand MortgageRamp internationally to Japan, Canada and Europe, and the scalability of the Intel-Microsoft platform will enable the company to host the international sites from its U.S.-based servers simply by adding more servers to the cluster.
“Because of the system’s scalability, we don’t need to mirror our environments in all different locations,”
“We may build co-location facilities for redundancy or fail-over reasons, but not because of scalability.”
The site has already proved popular, Patel said. To date, MortgageRamp has processed $2 billion worth of loans, with a total of $6 billion to $8 billion expected to pass through the Web site annually.
“I can’t imagine that we could have built MortgageRamp within our timeframe on any other platform,”
“And to get the flexibility we need, the .NET-based architecture is the ideal solution. The system architecture is unbelievable. We’ve done a complete analysis on it a couple times, and I can tell you we love the Intel and Microsoft platform.”