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Wolters Kluwer Financial Buys Desert Document Services

In a move to increase its play in both the document preparation and wholesale lending space, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services has acquired Desert Document Services Inc.

Desert Docs is primarily focused on serving the wholesale and correspondent mortgage lending market. The company assists lenders in the area of content management by helping lenders roll out and retract loan products quickly and cost-effectively. Its SMART Tools include dynamic content management capability and applications to develop, edit, organize and manage investor forms libraries.

In terms of how Desert Docs will fit within the WKFS family of companies, the plan is to combine Desert Docs' backend SMART Tools technology applications with the company's VMP X4 frontend document preparation platform. The SMART Tools application supports electronic forms, reusable business rules and workflow processes.

Going forward, WKFS plans to make the Desert Docs headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., its center for wholesale mortgage operations. WKFS has an existing retail mortgage center built around the company's VMP Mortgage Solutions product line in Troy, Mich.

Desert Docs chief executive officer, Ruth Thompson, and Joe LaBonty, its chief operating officer, will join WKFS as senior principal and director of operations for the combined wholesale mortgage line of business, respectively. Terms of the purchase agreement were not released. In addition, the branding of the Desert Docs name is also to be determined.

"Desert Docs and X4 will be combined," said Jay Levine, chief technology officer and president of the wholesale mortgage line of business for WKFS. "The doc prep business will be run as a standalone center in Tempe. Our wholesale doc prep will be based in Tempe as well."

The integration of Desert Docs and X4 is expected to be completed within 90 to 120 days. "The X4 customer will get stronger content management," explained Mr. Levine. "We bought this business because Desert Docs has the best operation for managing the content and the best feet on the ground as it pertains to Ruth Thompson and Joe LaBonty in terms of their expertise in this business."

"We got to field a lot of calls of course and Desert Docs lenders are thrilled to have WKFS behind us," added Ms. Thompson. "With WKFS' size it helps us be more credible. With VMP being known for forms, our customers are very excited given our pre-existing relationship."

But Ms. Thompson has run Desert Docs for almost 24 years on her own and now will have to adjust to being a part of a much larger corporation. Recognizing the benefits of agility in this market and how Ms. Thompson runs her business, Desert Docs will have a freer hand.

"My customer has always been my boss," said Ms. Thompson. "The market is my boss. Now I have Jay Levine and Wolters Kluwer behind me to help the customer and get the word out. Part of what they bought was our mechanism to make change.

"On paper Ms. Thompson may have a boss but we'll be co-equals," added Mr. Levine. "I'm not sure an operation like this has one boss. This is an extremely dynamic market. We made a conscious choice to run this business outside of the operational structure of Wolters Kluwer. It will have its own management, budget and the ability to make decisions quickly without going through management. We'll be able to execute like a small business.

"We're constantly looking at mergers and acquisitions. We're always evaluating build vs. buy scenarios. Desert Docs has tremendous competency, reputation and industry expertise. It's not just about technology, it's about the people on the ground. It's a great opportunity for us at Wolters Kluwer."

What should mutual clients expect from this acquisition? "They should know that they're getting what they asked for," answered Ms. Thompson. "They're getting swiftness and a great staff with added financial strength. They'll have a responsive team that is now part of a large company that has other products to offer. The customer can now think about integrations within existing Wolters Kluwer systems. They'll get financial security and speed to market." (c) 2007 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com http://www.sourcemedia.com

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