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BEAVERTON, Ore. – The concept of automated advice technology – where members are guided in purchasing products or services through a Q&A format – has taken a big leap forward for First Tech Credit Union when it comes to mortgages. “We are simply ecstatic at having 900 advice sessions a month and of that number more than 55% actually applied,” declared Thomas Sargent, president and CEO of the $1.1 billion CU. There were 270 mortgages originated in August as a result of the so-called `decision tree’ system which leads members into buying the right products whether on the Internet, face-to face at branches or at call centers. Sargent said First Tech, a client of the advice vendor, Experion Systems of Maynard, Mass., has found the on-line portion of the program highly productive in drawing business that might not have reached the suburban Portland CU. “It’s really magnificent that 52% of the mortgage advice calls have come in during the off hours, so these are calls that would normally have come into loan officers thus saving them considerable time,” he said. Under the Experion format, potential buyers are guided through the question series helping loan officers to determine the exact needs, desires and qualifications. The program allows non-loan officers to help in sorting out applications, noted First Tech. “The Experion system allows any member service representative once they are trained, to take member calls and discuss benefits, but the explanations are consistent,” said Sargent. Including the Internet contacts, First Tech was averaging 2,777 advisor sessions a month, including those for its consumer lending and deposit account “suites,” said Experion. The most amount of activity still remains at Bellco Credit Union in Denver, which helped pioneer and promote the Q&A system. “Bellco has approximately double the number of total sessions per month of First Tech,” said Jeff Cernak, the chief operating officer of Experion. Last month Experion introduced a new “suite” aimed at reaching investors called “Wealth Management Assistant.” That product is designed to equip frontline staff “to engage members in a consultative sales dialogue” identifying needs, education and product knowledge and to “make qualified referrals to the appropriate experts.” Experion identified First Tech, San Antonio Federal CU in Texas and Educators CU in Racine, Wis. as starting that product. -

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