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Ole Miss Internet business attracting clients across nation

OXFORD — The ivory towers of academia were once reputed to be largely isolated from the real world of business. But in recent decades universities have also served as business incubators launching highly successful companies such as the popular Internet search engine Yahoo.

At the University of Mississippi (UM), a business called FNC is attracting customers across the country — and a lot of attention in the national media — for providing Internet-based mortgage services.

FNC operates an Internet site that gives financial institutions and appraisal management companies an electronic system to assign appraisals and process, monitor and review the appraisals ordered by linking the entire appraisal management service chain. Benefits include reduced turn times and greatly reduced costs.

“We found a niche for a badly needed service where there was no competition, “ said Bill Rayburn, Ph.D., the UM professor of finance and real estate who is also CEO of FNC. “We do business-to-business e-commerce for the mortgage industry. Through our Web site we connect the financial institutions to all third-party vendors who provide collateral estimates. Instead of sending faxes, we have single point of access on the Internet at appraisalport.com. It’s a portal to get appraisal orders, and deliver appraisal reports. And we also have titleport.com for title opinions, and floodport.com for flood zone determination.”

FNC has been getting a lot of attention in the national media with articles about the company in The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel, and other large metropolitan newspapers.

Rayburn said there was a pent-up demand for the services provided by FNC. Now the word about the company is getting out, business has been increasingly rapidly.

“Our site is getting absolutely burned up in terms of visitors,” he said.

About two thirds of the company’s staff of 35 are based in Oxford with the remaining sales staff scattered through the U.S. Besides serving as a business incubator to provide employment, FNC is also a valuable teaching tool for training students in the increasingly important world of e-commerce.

“If you are going to talk about it, you ought to be able to do it,” said Rayburn. “The university and Chancellor Robert Kahyet have been very cooperative. And I appreciate the company investors, who are all Mississippi residents, for their faith in the company.”

The introduction to the company’s Web site, fncinc.com, says that it is no longer good enough to just perform well in the world of paper and traditional resources: “Suddenly, 100 million people are connected to the Internet. Day by day the virtual world of e-commerce is revolutionizing the way business is conducted. You understand the essential practices that give your enterprise a competitive edge. The challenge is how to leverage the resources and capabilities of the Web into your proven business practices. That’s where FNC can help with faster, smarter, better technology.”

FNC’s technology links all the participants in the service delivery system. FNC’s decision support and database management features synchronize with their Extranet Service Ports to streamline case and client management. Rayburn said an advantage is that paperless data transfer streamlines process time and generates simple, easy-to-quantify improvements to performance.

“FNC provides the analysis, the technical support and the software interface to expand your business and empower your managers, staff and external providers up and down your entire service delivery environment,” he said. “FNC’s sophisticated end-to-end data management and warehousing architectures are unique. Our internal management technology, expert decision support and custom analysis advance strategic management capabilities automate monitoring, communications and analytical functions in a configuration that precisely responds to your management needs.”

Another advantage is that once data is entered into the system, it can be rearranged for a variety of purposes without re-entering the data. That makes the information readily accessible, easy to retrieve, and reliable. The result is reduced administrative costs, increased capacity, better customer service, and enhanced competitiveness.

“We also work very hard to achieve a responsive design and system of operation that fits the knowledge and insights of employees,” Rayburn said. “People are the basic sources of operation excellence, and our intuitive operating system allows them to apply their knowledge to easy-to-use and attractive software tools, eliminating many routine data entry requirements.”

FNC also provides techniques to evaluate operational performance which is vital in today’s increasingly high-speed business climate.

FNC also has a Statistical Process Control and Appraisal Risk Manager which provides institution-specific statistical process control (SPC) by developing a statistical profile, then applying comprehensive, statistically-based auditing to evaluate appraisal portfolios. Benefits include reducing the number of required review appraisals while at the same time improving institutional risk management controls.

The FNC Automated Auction System is a work force allocation system that provides financial institutions and appraisal management firms with an Internet auction system for allocating appraisal orders.

The FNC Year 2000 (Y2K) Solutions provides two-stage testing for Y2K compliance.

FNC Inc. has also embarked on a joint venture, the Appraisal Institute Residential Database (AIRD) , with the Appraisal Institute (AI) to develop and market a national residential database of physical property data. The Residential Database will provide the first comprehensive, Internet-based source for local, regional and national residential physical property data, and is scheduled to be commercially launched in the year 2000.

Another service is the FNC Extranet Service Ports which provides financial institutions with a secure Web -based medium for e-commerce and communication outside their institutional firewalls. The benefits of ESP include secure Internet transactions, secure communication, and instantaneous ordering, monitoring and reporting, with vastly reduced turn-times and costs.

For more information on FNC, call 662-232-1218 or send an e-mail to info@fncinc.com.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.

About Becky Gillette

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