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Cynthia Ramsaran
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Growing Mortgage Company Cuts Telecom Costs

Homestar Mortgage uses 3Com's voice over IP technology to connect branches.

Homestar Mortgage uses 3Com's voice over IP technology to connect branches.

To manage its growth, Homestar Mortgage (Paramus, N.J), which quadrupled its size in two years, has installed a tool for voice over IP (VoIP) technology that has reduced costs for its phone systems and branch expansion.

The growing mortgage company used 3Com's (Santa Clara, Calif.) network telephony systems to connect its locations into a single information infrastructure. This integration was essential at a company where lending volume has increased from $300 million to $6.7 billion in two years, according to Homestar's chief technology officer, Alan Cooper.

The institution previously used multiple vendors for different phone systems for each branch. Now Homestar relies solely on two of 3Com's SuperStack 3 NBX networked telephony solutions located in its headquarters and at its Atlanta branch, and connects these systems to each of its other locations across the U.S. The need for outside consultants was eliminated with implementation of the new system, says Cooper.

'Cookie-Cutter' Scenario

"We have opened up a significant amount of branch offices and we have used 3Com equipment to help us roll out these branch offices and create a cookie-cutter scenario to open branch offices very easily without the use of consultants," he explains. "Our main reason for going into this technology was to relieve our reliance on outside consultants, which enabled us to save an enormous amount of money and add new branches and a variety of other operational aspects."

The system allows Homestar employees to contact other branches by dialing a four-digit extension. Employees also can transfer calls at no charge. Furthermore, the company has reduced the cost of opening a new branch by eliminating the need to install a separate phone system.

"With this voice over IP technology we're able to route from branch to branch to save money, reduce cost routing and combine our long distance into regional offices," says Cooper. "We take advantage of free local telephone service in areas where we can route the calls out to those areas."

In addition to reducing costs, Homestar's goals behind the use of network telephony systems are to increase the quality of customer service, as well as make loan processing more efficient and easier for employees.

"We want to increase the level of service that we provide for our internal customers and our employees," says Cooper. "By using this technology, we can provide systems that allow them to communicate better at a lower cost and also reduce overall costs utilizing this technology. And we are reaching those benefits today."

The initial implementation started out as a test, and and at that time Homestar also began to train its employees on the system. The institution started using the system in some offices and then ultimately stopped buying other phone systems, according to Cooper. Homestar then began training its staff, using outside consultants, but since employees quickly adapted to the system it wasn't long before the consultants were no longer needed.

"First we depended on consulting firms to train our internal staff but that (the training) happened pretty quickly," says Cooper. "Starting about two years ago we started going back through all of the branches that had other phone systems, replacing them and tying all of the systems together."

The new technology continues to help the mortgage company reduce its telecommunications-related spending. "Over the last year we've been extremely aggressive about expanding the voice over IP technology," says Cooper. "Now we're going much further. We are opening branches that don't even have telephone systems in them anymore. We're tying them to branches that have telephone systems and leveraging these in order to open up branches at significantly lower costs. by utilizing the voice over IP technology."

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