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Commercial Mortgage Technology's Future

Panel discusses what to expect in real estate finance technology

February 6, 2001


SAN DIEGO, California -- "What the future holds" was the subject of a panel discussion at MBA's 2001 Commercial Real Estate Finance/Multifamily Housing Convention this week. Moderating the discussion was James Murphy, Chairman and CEO of New England Realty Resources, Inc. Joining Mr. Murphy were
Professor Albert Segars, Ph.D., and Andrew Gold, Ph.D. candidate, both from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In Dr. Segars statements, during which he ridiculed now defunct dot com companies, he referred to the current technological period as the "age of electronic consortium." The Professor of Management indicated that the commercial mortgage industry is in a great position to exploit technology.

An important aspect of commercial mortgage technology is broadband Internet access. With wider usage of broadband access, more document delivery is available over the net. According to Dr. Segars, broadband is defined as Internet access at T-1 speed, which is 1.44 million bits per second. He said that by 2003 there will be 11.3 million broadband business users and 20.73 million broadband residential users. He also pointed out that larger cities have much wider access to broadband than smaller towns.

One theme repeated at this conference is the coalition of many technology companies. Part of the basis of future value is a company's ability to be a partner. The panel pointed out that the current environment is one of the fluid formation of coalitions. Wells Fargo was cited as a frequent participant in e-coalitions.

Another common theme is the necessity for commercial mortgage companies to maintain the human element in support of the technology. Dr. Segars mentioned iContact.com as an example of what Websites will be like in the future. He said that a live person at iContact actually monitors users during the sessions, then sends an instant message asking if they can help the users with anything.

In addition to giving companies access to global markets, the Internet can reduce expenses when used to replace existing functions. For instance, instead of paying employees to complete data entry for the customer, the Internet enables consumers to input information themselves while immediately satisfying their needs in real time.

The web also enables feedback from customers. Dr. Segars pointed out examples where companies were able to gain valuable insight to issues they previously didn't recognize.

The recently enacted Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act clarified the validity of e-documents. The professor said that the United Parcel Service is a leader in e-signature technology.

The panel predicts significant growth in handheld devices, which will perform many functions now handled by the personal computer.

The panel recommended the following for building an e-strategy:
  • simplify the business
  • engage customer
  • create buying efficiency
  • enhance innovation
  • enhance speed to market

Sam Garcia has been in mortgage lending since 1980, and is managing editor of MortgageDaily.com. He also owns and operates CloseNow.com, a real estate portal site.

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