Avista Announces Launch of SAIL Rapid Implementation Methodology, Sees Increased Lender Demand for Efficiency During Refi Boom

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New methodology dramatically reduces deployment time, increases productivity and cuts origination costs

Mark Phlieger is finding himself on more and more airplanes these days, meeting with new and prospective clients who are making changes in their loan origination software (LOS) systems. "The surge in volume, especially in refinances, has left a lot of lenders trying to figure out how to do more loans with fewer people," says Phlieger, president and CEO of Avista Solutions, an LOS provider from Columbia, South Carolina. "They are moving away from installed client/server systems that do less, to more agile, web-based systems that do more," he adds. "We can bring them greater functionality because we're built on the latest web-based technology platform, but the real issue is how fast you can get them up and running. No one has time to wait in this market because loans are rolling in so quickly."

The Mortgage Bankers Association recently predicted that 2009 would be a refinance-driven bonanza for lenders, the fourth largest-sized market in U.S. history, with $2.78 trillion in overall volume, close to $2 trillion of it in refinances. With rates at historic lows and adjustable rate loans out of favor with many, borrowers are rushing to refinance mortgages at a clip that has lenders scrambling. "Six months ago lenders were laying off staff," Phlieger notes. "Now, with volume up, they are looking for ways to get by with less staff in order to maximize profitability on the origination side," he says. "They are calling on us to bring them greater efficiency at lower cost, using Software as a Service (SaaS) technology as a vehicle to make it happen." Phlieger says implementation is a key factor, which is why Avista Solutions has introduced its methodology, called "SAIL," an acronym for Scalable, Agile, Innovative and Lean.

"Lenders need scalability more than ever, and their LOS has to help them with agility through its ease of use and functionality," Phlieger explains. "Innovation in features and architecture keep the technology and its clients relevant, and every company has to operate with a lean attitude, doing more with less. All the SAIL attributes must be present for lenders to be entirely happy with their conversion from their old-school installed software systems to more modern LOS technology, which is delivered via the Internet," he says. He points out that the main differences lie in who hosts the technology and manages it - the vendor or the client. When it is all performed by the vendor and delivered using the Web, Phlieger says that many complications are avoided. "When you install software on the company's servers, you typically have a number of issues," Phlieger says. "When the vendor hosts the application, clients don't have to worry about things like connectivity between branches, because it is done over the Internet. You avoid other compatibility problems, too, with files or drivers that are on users' desktop machines as well as the associated support costs."

These and other issues are the enemies of implementation speed, according to Phlieger, and Avista's new SAIL methodology is designed to eliminate them, enabling companies to convert from less efficient platforms to the faster and more fully-featured SaaS technology very rapidly. "Our goal is to have new clients up within 30-60 days," he says. We performed a conversion earlier this year in 21 days, using the SAIL approach. Getting it done quickly means lenders can handle more loans with existing staff, and that's critical in this market."

Avista has been feeling the effects of the refinance surge since well before the Mortgage Bankers Association released its most current market prediction. The company indicated it handled 140,000 loans in January, 115,000 in February and 128,000 in March 2009. "Scalability is the true test," he says. "More lenders are moving away from desktop and installed client/server systems that aren't able to scale or support access via the Internet." It is a time for innovation, Phlieger adds. "Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it well when he remarked that 'innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower' and we've taken that to heart. We have begun our ninth year in business and we have learned that when you stop innovating, you are losing ground."

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Rosalie Berg
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