As CIO for BMW Financial Services, I led the team that developed the InfoBahn. Peter DiCiscio coded the first version of the app. Chuck Ball and Sue Litzinger rolled out the network. Shortly thereafter, Sue took over and produced a version for Land Rover called InfoTrail.
Previously, credit applications had arrived via fax to be keyed into our Fair-Isaac credit system. Another popular approach was to transmit image copies to be keyed in Juarez, where cheap labor meant more hands on keyboards. There were also experiments with optical character recognition.
I wondered if dealers might be induced to enter their own credit applications directly into our system. We would only need a few data elements, notably the social security number, to run a credit check. F&I staffers initially resisted the extra work, but were won over by faster credit decisions.
There were also concerns about network security, so we connected all 350 dealers individually using a point to point ISDN network. Over several months, Chuck kept meticulous control over each stage of each dealer’s implementation.
Our first InfoBahn support call was from an incredulous F&I manager who had just submitted an application, encountered our automated decisioning, and received an instant approval. He wanted to know if this was for real. Yes, it was the beginning of an era.
The InfoBahn network was rapidly adopted for other dealer communications, like warranty administration. As soon as we had permission from Munich, the team moved it onto HTTPS, where the InfoBahn remains an important part of BMW infrastructure to this day.