The economy has recovered significantly since the financial crisis in 2008. The stock market continues to thrive. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in almost two decades, and there’s more demand for housing than ever before. Consumer lending has substantially increased in the past year, and now that the U.S. has returned to more prosperous times, it only makes sense for community banks to open their doors again to welcome consumer lending—and make a sizeable profit while they are at it.
The Great Recession brought a more restrictive regulatory environment and calls from legislators for revision and change in the banking industry. Facing heightened regulatory concerns, many community bankers abandoned potential revenue from consumer lending in the face of mounting costs. For example, total costs for originating a $30,000 unsecured consumer loan in a bank branch could be over $3,000, making the overhead and costs unattractive to many bankers. With an improving economy and a need for higher yielding assets, community banks are looking for ways to lower these costs and make consumer lending profitable again.
The consumer lending landscape has changed drastically in the past decade. The space has gone through a digital transformation led by marketplace lenders focused on disrupting traditional brick and mortar banks. These marketplace lenders are not yet as highly regulated as banks, enabling their online lending platforms to thrive in the current economy with little to no legislation working against them.
Many community banks lack the internal expertise, infrastructure and resources to quickly build their own digital lending platforms. Those that do build their own platforms face the challenge of keeping the platform current and fully compliant while still delivering an exceptional experience that meets the needs of today’s digital banking customer. This creates significant costs in capital expenditures for the platform’s infrastructure, and lofty operating expenses for the institution to continue to competitively offer these products and maintain regulatory compliance.
Banks can dramatically decrease both the cost and time-to-market for a digital lending platform by partnering with technology providers. Implementing and launching a digital lending platform can take as little as six weeks by partnering with an outside provider, and these partnerships provide the necessary infrastructure banks are looking for without having to build and staff internally. In contrast to the high costs of originating loans in a traditional branch, the digital platforms provided through technology partnerships can lower total costs to originate that same $30,000 unsecured consumer loan down to roughly $750, making it significantly more profitable for the bank. The reduced costs and reduced risks in creating these platforms is resulting in an increase in technology partnerships.
Choosing a digital lending platform provider that understands the regulatory and compliance complexities facing the banking industry, and focuses on a higher standard of customer service, should be a top priority for community bankers in 2018. The boards and management teams of these institutions should seek partnerships with endorsed technology providers that demonstrate a keen eye for ever-evolving regulations, exceptional customer experiences and lucrative lending opportunities for the future.