LIXI is an Australian, Member-based community that develops data message transaction standards for the Australian mortgage processing industry, and promotes improvements in efficiency in mortgage processing.
The LIXI standards are managed and developed by LIXI Members:
1) The LIXI Board oversees the operations of LIXI;
2) The Steering Committees oversee the standards development process; and;
3) The Working Groups develop and refine the LIXI standards.
How LIXI Standards are Developed
Each standard is developed by a working group staffed by volunteers from LIXI Member organisations. Ideally, a cross-section of industry groups is represented in the working group.
The role of the working group is to define the Requirements for a transaction (or set of transactions) between two or more parties. For example, the Valuations working group developed requirements covering requests and responses between lenders and valuers.
The working group develops the standards through a number of meetings and through online review of documents as they are developed. Standards are generally developed in the following phases; timeframes are approximate.
- Development of Business Requirements (3-6 months)
- Schema / vocabulary development (1 month)
- Schema / vocabulary review (at least 2 weeks)
- Request for comments (at least 1 month)
- Board approval (1-2 weeks, depending upon availability of Board members)
How is a new standard initiated?
A new standard is developed when there is a substantial requirement to warrant a new initiative. Once a general level of interest is shown, a LIXI Member contacts the Chair of the LIXI Technical Subcommittee to initiate a working group. The LIXI board will then appoint someone (generally the Technical Author) to chair the first meeting of the new working group. The purpose of the working group will be to develop the Business Requirements for the new standards.
LIXI Standards Development Methodology
LIXI Standards are developed through an iterative approach involving the respective Business Working Groups and the Vocab Group. Requirements are gathered, documented, and re-worked in the Business groups, the Vocab group provides feedback (directly or via questions) to the Business groups and ultimately develops Standards that meet the requirements.
The Business Working Group
The purpose of a Business Working group is to define the requirements for a logical set of transactions between two or more parties in the lending process value chain, for example, broker to lender loan applications and responses, lender to valuer valuation requests and responses, etc.
The Business Working Group is populated principally by volunteers from interested member organizations. Each business requirements working group should ideally have representation from at least 25% of its industry cross-section, but there are no hard and fast rules.
The final output of the Business Working Group are working group documents including:
- Business Case or Business Requirements Document detailing the standard intent and the high-level business requirements
- Functional Requirements for the Transactions
- A glossary of vocabulary terms and definitions that support the requirements documents
- Draft Technical Specifications with as much detail as the business working group can provide to the Vocab working group
Together, these documents guide the Vocab Working group to develop suitable transaction solutions.
Vocabulary Working Group
The Vocabulary Working Group differs from the Business Working Group in that it does not formulate Business or Functional Requirements and is not concerned with any particular transaction set. The Vocabulary Working Group is the custodian of the Vocabulary Superset and meets on request to review the final Requirements produced by the Business Working Group as well any gap analysis, change requests and ontology proposals of the Technical Author.
The output of the Vocab Working group is primarily the XML schema for transaction standards. However, the Vocab Working group also has significant input into the supporting documentation that is included in the release process.
The Release Process
The "Request For Comment" (RFC) phase of the release process gives all LIXI members a chance to review the final documentation and proposed standards prior to final release. Generally, the RFC period is four weeks for the requirements and schema. Changes will be considered at any time throughout this period. Once the RFC process is completed and any changes incorporated, the documents and standards are formally released to the LIXI community
Along with schema, release documents may include the following:
- Release notes
- User guide
- Implementation guide
- Inline schema documentation
The LIXI website is the focal point of LIXI documentation. There are three main areas;
- The home page and subsidiary pages describe the purpose and workings of LIXI (public access)
- Current published specifications and documents (Members only areas)
- Members' area contains the online collaboration tool, with discussion topics and work-in-progress.
A working group is automatically started when a work-in-progress document link is requested. This tool allows collaboration on all requirements and specification documents. The advantage of online review is that all working group members are looking at the same, most up to date version of each document. When you add a review comment, all other group members can see your comment and make their own responses. Online collaboration allows the development of documents to continue between meetings and ensures all members of the working group can contribute to the final document. Comments can be posted at a fine level of granularity (e.g. against each field) and each posting can commence a discussion thread. Once the Online Requirements documents are prepared, along with the proposed Ontology, there will be a useful mapping from the Requirement to the solution in the Ontology. This mapping can be further discussed via pageseeder within the Ontology.
LIXI Board Sub-Committees
The executive and managerial responsibilities of the Board of Directors are devolved to a number of sub-committees that are comprised of approximately four board members and one or two optional, external additional contributors. The sub-committee responsibilities are currently divided into four general areas:
The Business sub-committee has primary responsibility for revenue and administration which includes overall issues related to membership, banking and finance, accounting and audit, ASIC, constitutional issues and the AGM.
The Communications sub-committee is responsible for the promotion of LIXI and the dissemination of information related to LIXI activities. This includes the information on the public website, news media releases, interviews with journalists, targeted LIXI events such as informational Evening Series and Australia's most influential and comprehensive conference on straight-through processing, the Annual LIXI Forum.
The Intellectual sub-committee is responsible for legal issues including maintenance of the LIXI Constitution and protection of LIXI intellectual property. The sub-committee is responsible for maintaining agreements between LIXI and its members and licensees, and suppliers, devising and recommending changes to policies and agreements in regard to intellectual property matters, as requested by the Board, the CEO or the other Sub-Committees.
The technical sub-committee manages the primary work of Standards development including requirements gathering, technical specifications and reference implementations.
Lending industry XML data standards have matured and changed over the past decade but all of LIXI's accomplishments could only have been achieved with the hard work and commitment of our many volunteers and early initiators. The interviews below are just a few of the many individuals who have given their time and expertise over the years.
Joanne Mather - Mortgage Choice
For nearly a decade, National Lending Operations Manager at Mortgage Choice Jo Mather has been working with LIXI toward a more standardised and effective strategy for the lending industry. Mortgage Choice became involved with LIXI in 2003 when an internal evaluation of electronic lodgment revealed a need to find a better solution for the lending industry. Through LIXI’s facilitation of working groups, Mortgage Choice was able to implement electronic lodgment in 2004. Just a year later, Mortgage Choice was already submitting electronically to 10 lenders.
Personally, Mather joined the LIXI board in 2005 and chaired the communications subcommittee from 2006 to 2010. Though she resigned due to increased commitments elsewhere, both she and Mortgage Choice remain firmly committed to LIXI believing in its goals. “I’m a supporter of the objectives of a community working together for an efficient end-to-end process,” she said. “Standards are obviously the key to this, but so is LIXI’s role as a neutral facilitator providing discussion & striving for consensus among competing industry participants.”
When discussing the role LIXI plays in her working life, Mather emphasises the advantages of LIXI’s ability to provide standards, and to facilitate forums where those standards can be discussed and improved upon, and their take-up encouraged. Without LIXI “lenders’ requirements for application data would be even more disparate than they currently are.”
Mather hopes to continue working with LIXI to deliver greater benefits and a tighter standard for members and for the lending industry. One of the big initial goals was to get decision makers to ask ‘Is this LIXI compliant?’ before signing off any project investments. That’s now happening in some major organizations, so LIXI has come a long way already. She sees LIXI’s next step as initiating conversations and evaluating post-implementation effectiveness. If a standard isn’t meeting the perceived needs and risks, LIXI needs to be proactive and reopen the working group to establish the changes required.
Mike Thanos - LTX
According to LTX Chief Operating Officer, Mike Thanos, LIXI provides an “open, collaborative environment in which people can engage in discussions about the future of the lending industry.” As a former Director of LIXI and Member since 2004, Mike strongly believes in LIXI’s value both professionally and personally.
From a professional perspective, Mike says LIXI standards allow for lending transactions to be processed “cheaper, better and easier” than in the past – a host of benefits LTX and other members are then able to pass on to their customers. Mike particularly values the exposure to other industry businesses that a LIXI membership has afforded. By uncovering challenges that industry participants are facing, LTX has been able to discover market needs and better define requirements for industry-wide solutions.
Through LIXI, says Mike, “we’re better able to meet those requirements that are applicable across the industry and this is fundamental to providing our services. Plus, adoption of standards that are already proven to work in a real-world situation is invaluable.” Mike also believes that without LIXI standards, there wouldn’t be anywhere near the amount of information electronically exchanged as there is today, so LIXI has already changed the way the lending industry does business.
Notably, Mike says his personal life has been enhanced by his association with LIXI, especially through the organisation’s networking opportunities. “Bringing lots of people from the industry together to discuss opportunities for progress & efficiencies in non-competitive areas and truly collaborating is very rewarding,” says Mike. He admires the work LIXI is doing and the caliber of people involved, both elements which have been personally enriching.
In his capacity as Director for the past eight years, Mike has seen LIXI mature and believes the organisation is currently “on the cusp of a period of accelerated evolution”. While maintaining its role as a provider of standards, he believes that with careful observation of industry trends, LIXI will be able to move beyond its role as a standards manager to empower participants to implement and use the standards as well. Ultimately, Mike says LIXI’s main goal is to enable better efficiency and quality in lending by “stimulating industry discussion and collaboration, creating standards that power the industry, and ultimately enabling their adoption”. In his view, LIXI is currently on the verge of stimulating a “new wave of efficiency” in the lending industry.
Malcolm Watkins - Australian Financial Group
For almost a decade, Malcolm Watkins, Executive Director at Australian Financial Group (AFG), has been drawing on the strengths and standards of LIXI to improve services for his customers. With this valued input, Mr. Watkins aims to improve the existing processes of electronic lodgement and expand capabilities to support new features. Mr. Watkins, also the founding director of AFG and all AFG group companies, has strategic responsibility for AFG’s technology development programmes, electronic delivery systems, and national marketing operations.
He explains he first become involved in LIXI in 2002 when AFG initiated the Trident Project, an arrangement between the three largest mortgage brokers and four of the industry leading banks which was established to implement electronic lodgement between brokers and lenders. AFG, together with Aussie Home Loans, Mortgage Choice, ANZ, CBA, ING, and Macquarie had selected LIXI as the standard for electronic transfer of home loan application information. AFG than shared the lead role with LIXI in developing the standards for backchannel status messages and commissions payments, as well as ongoing commitment to the application standards.
“We are still working with LIXI to improve the existing processes of electronic lodgement and expand the capabilities to support new features that benefit our members and consumers,” he says. “AFG is pressing the lenders to implement downstream automation to provide even more benefits to the consumer.” Mr. Watkins says using LIXI standards makes it easier for AFG to interact with third parties. “LIXI was a great medium to bring third parties together and collaborate for mutual benefit, particularly our banking and lending partners in the ‘early days’,” he explains. “LIXI helped to create a momentum which drew the greater market place in to collaborate, and allowed third party software providers to build gateways and compete for data transfer services.”
Mr. Watkins also praised the LIXI events as they created a platform that enabled industry participants an opportunity to network with peers and develop understandings in the industry. He also says LIXI can add value for its member base by managing the ‘various flavours’ of the LIXI standards, in that “one of the major roles of the electronic lodgement gateway providers is to transform one flavour of LIXI to another”.
Simon Elwig - Commonwealth Bank
Simon Elwig, General Manager for Operational Planning, Finance and Support for Third Party Banking at the Commonwealth Bank, has an easier workload thanks to LIXI. “LIXI has enabled straight through processing for the lodgement of Broker applications online,” he says.
Mr. Elwig first learned about LIXI in 2003 when he was responsible for delivering online lodgement capability to Brokers for CBA. He was obviously impressed by LIXI’s potential – he was the former Director of LIXI between 2006 and 2010. He also espouses the benefits of joining the voluntary organisation. “Joining has made it easier for broker groups to lodge online with CBA using their own systems and receiving back channel messages,” he advises. “As the standard development for NCCP, LIXI has made it easier for Brokers to fulfill responsible lending requirements of Lenders.”
He believes LIXI has a strong future. “It has the ability to act as the “independent” enabler to bring all the mortgage industry players together to develop standards to improve the B2B efficiency of the whole industry,” he says.
Gary O’Sullivan - St George Bank
As the Senior Manager for Intermediary Distribution at St. George Bank, Gary O’Sullivan believes a central place from which data can be accessed is essential. And he says belonging to LIXI has helped achieve this. “It is easier to implement standards as LIXI has most of them and this ensures our IT Teams build to these,” he explains.
Mr. O’Sullivan added LIXI set the benchmarks around which his own team could plan. “Being a member of LIXI ensure we stay in line with the Industry expectations and do not go off in the wrong direction and end up designing something the industry will not use. It has also helped me better understand broker requirements with this standardization.” He first became involved with LIXI in 2003 when designing and implementing the STG/BSA electronic lodgement system. “LIXI CAL was the standard language at that time, and we used it as the basis of our build,” he explains.
Mr. O’Sullivan sees LIXI as playing a guiding role in the lending market. “LIXI still needs to ensure that lenders and brokers work towards the same goals and their role in ensuring this is important,” he says. “The introduction of new standards will also require management and this will involve someone in the middle ensuring the needs of all parties are met.”