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ATLANTA – You never know where credit unions are going to get technology solutions these days, but more and more they are coming from venerable, non-tech companies that have over the years transformed into quite tech-savvy firms. Such is the case with Equifax. The company announced last week plans to acquire APPRO Systems, an increasingly popular choice among credit unions looking for a loan origination product that works in-house, online, and for direct and indirect lending. Equifax will acquire APPRO in a deal worth $92 million. APPRO has 150 financial institution clients, about half of which are credit unions. The privately-held company generated more than $20 million in revenue in ’04. This brings the end so to speak to another homegrown credit union industry tech firm in APPRO, though it also serves banks. APPRO’s profile has blossomed in the credit union industry, especially over the last five years. Equifax has made it clear however that the APPRO brand will live on and no major changes will be made at APPRO’s headquarters in Baton Rouge where it employs 152 people. “Clearly we’re delighted for APPRO Systems to be part of Equifax. It creates a brand new opportunity in our unit called Enabling Technologies,” said Tom Chapman, Equifax’s Chairman and CEO. The genesis of this deal may have started some 15 years ago when Chapman and APPRO Systems founder and CEO Steve Uffman first met. Uffman was working with a credit bureau affiliate of Equifax. Over the years the two have talked about how things should work, and finally the time was right for the two to start working on those visions, said Chapman. Chapman said just during his 17-year tenure leading Equifax he has seen the company go throw a number of rebirths. He describes today’s Equifax as having three core parts: an incredible rich data source (for which it is probably best known); an analytics and data intelligence part where it aims to take data and make it smarter; and its newest piece, Enabling Technologies, where “the answer is delivered”, as Chapman put it. “Data is nothing but overhead unless you’ve added to it intelligence and elevated it.That’s the competency of the Equifax franchise,” said Chapman, who noted he’s a big fan of credit unions in terms of their aggressiveness and competitiveness. He knows CUs well from the days when Equifax and Certegy were one. The Enabling Technologies sector is vital for Equifax said Chapman. “We do a zillion online credit reports a year, somewhere just shy of a billion. In this past year 20% of the online transactions that involved our credit files were driven through one of our Enabling Technologies. That shows you how far we’ve come,” he said. Other products in the Enabling Technologies suite include InterConnect, an ASP offering that simplifies extending credit at the point-of-sale and Decision Power, a real-time decisioning tool that includes cross-selling functionality. Uffman, 54, started APPRO when he was just 28. He said the company has adjusted with the times and the mantra today is speed. “There was a day in time when you could give someone a fast yes and the consumer would be satisfied. In this hyper-intense world, with a lot of lenders chasing borrowers, you need to bring it all the way to fulfillment,” he said. APPRO is best known for its LoanCenter software products and services that allow credit unions to extend their loan origination to the Internet. Uffman said to truly take advantage of the Internet channel, loan origination must be able to do everything, whether it’s HELOCs, credit cards, auto loans. And the product has to take members all the way to the end. “The consumer has a show me the money attitude. It’s great that you tell me I’m approved, but nothing happens until I have the money,” said Uffman. APPRO has evolved over the years into more than just a software provider, said Uffman. It takes a consulting approach with credit unions to understand what they’re trying to do. Just as companies reinvent themselves, many CUs are changing FOMs, moving into indirect lending, changing channels, all the things where loan origination comes into play. The lending platform has also become the perfect place to cross-sell, said both Uffman and Chapman. Chapman believes Equifax can help APPRO’s products be even better on the cross-sell side. He said Equifax’s enormous data silo has everything from standard credit report data such as existing loans all the way to opt-out information on consumer purchasing habits. He said credit unions can use all this knowledge and a system like APPRO to cross-sell at the right time to the members. “That’s the lifecycle management we’ve been all over for a number of decades,” said Chapman. [email protected]

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