Bundling up with technology Patricia Jonesbundled services, Electronic Partner Networks, portals, value-added networks For too long now, delivering on the promise of bundled services has been a challenge. Bundled services involve coordinating multiple products such as title, credit and appraisal and until recently, there hasn't been an adequate delivery mechanism for delivering all that information to lenders in a coordinated fashion. Bundled services started as a good idea, which (strangely enough) came from the federal government as a result of RESPA reform initiatives. Although the reform was shelved, the idea of a single guaranteed mortgage package containing all that's needed to close a loan struck a chord with both lenders and consumers. Both also found it appealing to know the closing costs upfront. The idea gained traction. It turns out that it was easier said than done. Closing a loan involves multiple services using in-house and outside providers. Until recently, there hasn't been a good mechanism to deliver the entire bundle. Two approaches emerged, enabled by quickly evolving technology: Electronic Partner Networks (EPNs) and portals. EPNs (also called "valued-added networks") offer lenders access to multiple service providers, allowing them to efficiently coordinate ordering and product delivery functions. In short, EPNs give lenders one place to order a bundle of services that are delivered back through that same single channel. Technological advances allow bundles to be more easily created, and settlement services providers have responded by grouping their products together into bundles for the lenders. The challenge to developing such a network was creating a level of technical integration among all of the providers so that lenders get seamless delivery of the whole bundle. Other providers choose to deploy a proprietary portal. Instead of a partner network, these portals allow lenders to electronically access the origination and closing services of a specific provider. Where will the technology take us in the future? I expect that lenders will be able to create their own bundles for settlement services in an automated fashion, rather than having to work with pre-defined bundles. Think of them as dynamic bundles of services. We're already seeing the beginning of this. I believe this is a logical progression and I know that technology can support it, as the industry moves toward fully electronic mortgages. Today's technology means that vendors can deliver on the promises of bundled services, which will save the lender money, help lenders and borrowers know their costs upfront and simplify the settlement process. If those three things aren't happening, then you're missing the point of bundled services. Patricia Jones is senior vice president and chief technology officer for Fiserv Lending Solutions. She may be reached at (262) 879-5000.