Property markets are hot. With that in mind, First Franklin, a division of National City Bank of Indiana, has embraced SOA in an effort to stay on the leading edge of mortgage lending.
"It used to be that at the end of 30 years you went to the bowling alley, burned the mortgage and everyone was happy," says CIO Kelly Williams of First Franklin, which specializes in serving first-time and credit-challenged borrowers. "Now, people want to switch mortgages constantly and use the investment in their homes as a financial instrument. This puts pressure on mortgage companies to get more creative and get out of the box with new products quickly. In this industry, first to market wins."
The company has heavily benefitted from an automated underwriting system built with BEA WebLogic Server and WebLogic Integration, according to a recent piece in SOA Pipeline. The system, dubbed EasyWriter 2, manages loan applicant information and enhances the decision capabilities of underwriters. But, more importantly, it has set the stage for the rollout of a service oriented architecture (SOA) and business process-oriented composite applications.
Relying on BEA technology, First Franklin built an SOA that supports loan origination and other application services that manage loan status. It enables the company employ industry standards and XML documents that are now widely used in the mortgage industry. Moreover, it employs a Web service reporting tool that lays the groundwork for more business intelligence and analytics.
"We are already seeing the benefits of the SOA approach," says Brett Francis, vice president of application development. "We have one service that does all the pricing modifications for all of our applications instead of having to repeat this function in every application. We can make changes faster because we have oriented things around the business. For example, one of our corporate departments wanted to do some analysis using the same service that our automated underwriting application uses to get a price. So, their request wasn't 'give me a price' but 'give me all the loans and all the prices.' It only took us about two weeks to come up with a separate Web app that could do the analysis in batch."
Now, First Franklin is focused on rolling out an enterprise service bus (ESB). "Once you have an ESB you can get away from tightly coupled connections between applications and really get into corporate orchestration of services for business processes," Francis says. "No matter what the component model, if the services or applications talk point-to-point, you'll end up with spaghetti. We need the ESB to separate the services from the applications that use them in order to build truly composite applications on top of the SOA."
However, the organization still struggles to define business processes. "Prototyping is very beneficial because that's really the only way to capture what the business process is doing at a particular point in time, versus trying to document the processes and keep that up to date," concludes Francis. "There's a lot of noise: Processes fluctuate in the mortgage business."