International Outsourcing Helps Fidelity Leverage Efficiency

Fidelity Information Services here plans to let those attending the Mortgage Bankers Association's national servicing conference this year know that it has literally been looking far and wide in its efforts to give the clients the technologically driven efficiencies they seek as they cope with the pressures of consolidation.

Given competitive pressures in the business and developments in automation that recently have made certain types of cost-savings more possible, Fidelity Information Services will most likely end up outsourcing some software development work selectively to India, the Philippines or China, said Dan Scheuble, executive vice president of product strategy and development for Fidelity Information Services' mortgage division.

Providing efficiency has increasingly become a key strategy for the Fidelity National Financial division's servicing technology unit, which is faced with the challenge of finding ways to grow while serving a group of client companies that are, by and large, declining in number but increasing in terms of volume, Mr. Scheuble said. Because of this challenge, providing automation that allows clients to do more at a lower cost has become the name of the game.

This is why Fidelity Information Services has been eyeing recent advances in the automated world that makes standardized software development by multiple parties possible in a manner Mr. Scheuble describes as being analogous to the building of homes from blueprints. Because software programming can now be standardized this way, financial services companies are now increasingly cutting costs by outsourcing the least valuable part of their work "offshore." As a result Fidelity will almost inevitably have to do so as well in order to compete, he said.

"All the large financial services players are going to have to do it," said Mr. Scheuble, adding that, at Fidelity, this would be done through a process in which "the best of both worlds" would be utilized.

"The understanding of ... customer needs and [the] understanding of servicing ... that's the valuable part [so that would be done domestically]," he said. "The offshore world is where the construction can happen. ... The challenge in making this work is managing the linkage between the domestic resources [and the offshore ones,]" Mr. Scheuble said.

Such is the approach the former Alltel Information Services is taking when it comes to international markets these days, he said. He added that the company is more likely to look abroad in terms of improving its U.S. business these days than in terms of developing business outside the country as Alltel did, with mixed success, in the past. There needs to be more development in terms of a standardized, securitized mortgage market abroad before such strategies abroad are worth pursuing, Mr. Scheuble said.

While Fidelity is not investing in international servicing market expansion these days, it is funding improvements to its U.S.-based Mortgage Servicing Package technology, which is used in 46% of the domestic, first-lien mortgage market, Mr. Scheuble said.

Among these is a focus on "Web-based access to services," he said.

"That's one of the big things you'll hear from us as the servicing conference," said Mr. Scheuble.

Other improvements include:

* Increasing attention to developments conducive to handling "larger and larger portfolios" on a single system, but also developments that allow the company to better serve smaller "niche players."

* Bringing everything to users on an "online, real-time" basis, including cash payments borrowers make on their mortgages.

* Making it easy for customers to

modify their graphical user interfaces to their own specifications.

* Providing client customizable workflow.

* Making systems "open and portable" so that they are compatible with other technologies clients might use. (Mr. Scheuble said large-end lenders have, in particular, been demanding this.)

* Meeting client demand for technology that can be used to handle home equity lines of credit, something that makes sense for many players in the market in that it is easier to move consumer finance receivables onto a first mortgage servicing platform than to do the opposite, Mr. Scheuble said. Currently, there are about 300,000 HELOCs processed on MSP, according to a Fidelity spokeswoman.

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