For many banks, the ability to offer small-business loans efficiently, quickly and compliantly has been more of an aspiration than a reality. The technical, financial and staffing obstacles involved in launching small business loan products have created daunting barriers to entry, while the need for small business credit persists in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
This creates a fertile breeding ground for new fintechs that claim they can streamline loan processing time, increase the profitability of even the smallest loans and improve the entire experience for banks and their customers.
But how can you distinguish between achievable goals and lip service? Bank executives need to ask the right questions to break through the noise and get real, honest answers. As a provider in the space, we spend countless hours researching the competition, talking with banks about their challenges and enhancing our small business lending platform. Here are the top eight questions to ask a prospective partner when considering a small business lending platform.
1. Is there a white-labeled borrower website option that can be branded with the bank’s colors, graphics and messaging?
It takes years to establish a well-known brand identity that your customers recognize and trust. It is crucial that any prospective loan origination platforms have the capability to incorporate bank branding, corporate color palette and distinct messaging to create a seamless experience for customers.
2. How much time does it take for business borrowers to complete and submit a full loan application?
Research shows that one of the top complaints of business borrowers is the amount of time it takes to complete an application. Any digital process will certainly be quicker than a manual method, but every step of the application process should be optimized for efficiency, resulting in a fully submitted loan application within 20 minutes or less.
3. Is the application process straightforward and intuitive for the borrower and back-office team?
We mentioned the importance of an efficient application, but efficiency can only be achieved if the application is clear, intuitive and guides users along the way. Ask potential vendors how applicants and the bank’s back office can track their progress through the application, and whether the system has measures in place to identify and alert the applicant to inaccurate or incomplete entries. It is also important that FAQs are prominently displayed, and that users have easy access to support.
4. Are there methods in place to ensure that borrowers are selecting the right loan product?
Your applicants don’t know your products as well as you do, so rather than asking them to select a loan product, a top-tier platform will incorporate an automated, intelligent “rules engine.” This type of technology gathers pertinent information throughout the application process and selects the most appropriate product(s) based on the applicant’s inputs. This streamlines the application for the borrower and saves your staff valuable time and resources.
5. Does the system help identify and filter out unqualified applications?
Once the borrower starts the application, the rules engine should activate, dynamically collecting data points to ensure that the application is meeting the bank’s specific product requirements. Further, it should also evaluate the data against the bank’s credit policy to verify the applicant meets the minimum acceptance criteria. The best loan platforms will identify such issues and prevent the applicant from progressing by redirecting them to a different page, product or contact method.
6. How does the system ensure compliance and security?
Ask a potential vendor whether their system supports all federal regulations that impact small businesses and lending practices, such as Know Your Customer/Know Your Business, anti-money laundering, Americans with Disabilities Act and web content accessibility guidelines , among others. The best systems will incorporate a bank’s credit and risk policy into the platform, so there is no impact to your bank’s risk profile with the regulators. Ask whether the system utilizes 24/7 monitoring to ensure the integrity and safety of bank data, whether they are SOC 2 compliant and whether they undergo regular third-party audits of their infrastructure and systems.
7. How does the system ensure quality control and prevent fraud?
Advanced loan technology should integrate into numerous background check sources and employ digital fraud detection using AI-powered captchas and two-factor authentication, among others. Specific criteria should immediately disqualify borrowers, such as zip-code, signing rights and industry type. The best systems will ensure that exceptions are identified and shown to the bank, so your staff doesn’t waste time trying to find them.
8. Does the platform provide automated document management?
Secure, efficient document management is one of the most critical functions of digital loan technology. Ensure that all documents are securely uploaded in transit and at rest. Here are just a few of the features an advanced platform should offer:
- A centralized document library housing all documents.
- The ability to collect any necessary form at the right time and have it electronically signed.
- Functionality that allows the lender to easily approve, reject or request individual documents with explanatory notes for the borrower.
- Protection of personal information by restricting the viewing of information to only the individual who owns it.