Web Site Key To Principal's Success

Mortgage lender Principal Financial's site helps it understand customers and prospects better
Mortgage lenders such as Principal Financial Group Inc. face a fickle audience. To sell the loans it offers, Principal depends on banks, mortgage companies, and independent agents, though none of them have formal ties to the Des Moines, Iowa, financial firm. So it's using Internet technology to build informal ties to them.

Principal created the Correspondent Lending Center, a Web site that connects to Principal's back-end systems and lets lenders upload loan-origination documents, generate reports, access mortgage rates, and manage sales pipelines. The site speeds up the generation of loans by removing much of the paperwork involved. More important, it helps lenders understand their customers and prospects better. Six out of 10 lenders who work with Principal have begun using the Web site since it was launched two months ago.

Carl Williams

Principal works to give its customers what they want, CIO Williams says.
One such correspondent lender is American Federal Mortgage in Flanders, N.J. Anthony Rispoli, American Federal's head of operations, says he uses Correspondent Lending Center several times a day to help him see if anything is holding up a loan that he's trying to push through to Principal. The system will automatically tell him what's delaying a pending loan, without the series of faxes and phone calls that were once required. In a market where mortgage rates don't differ that much, Rispoli says, the system helps Principal stand out. "When a vendor offers other efficiencies, you're going to direct more of your business to them," he says.

Principal also communicates with customers directly using polling tools on its Web site, with the results funneled back to the individual groups that can do something about them. That's led it to create new products, such as a retirement savings plan affiliated with QuickBooks, because many of its customers use the software for financial planning. Says Principal CIO Carl Williams, "We want to make sure that we're giving people what they really value as opposed to what we think they want."

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