Safeguarding Credit Portfolios in Today’s Uncertain Economic Landscape

Rising interest rates are impacting borrowers across the nation. The Federal Open Market Committee decided to raise the federal funds rate by 75 basis points in its June, July and September meetings, the largest increases in three decades. Additional increases are expected to come later this year in an attempt to slow demand.

These market conditions present significant potential challenges for community institutions and their commercial borrowers. To weather themselves against the looming storm, community bankers should take proactive steps to safeguard their portfolios and support their borrowers before issues arise.

During uncertain market conditions, it’s even more critical for banks to keep a close pulse on borrower relationships. Begin monitoring loans that may be at risk; this includes loans in construction, upcoming renewals, loans without annual caps on rate increases and past due loans. Initiating more frequent check-ins to evaluate each borrower’s unique situation and anticipated trajectory can go a long way.

Increased monitoring and borrower communication can be strenuous on lenders who are already stretched thin; strategically using technology can help ease this burden. Consider leveraging relationship aggregation tools that can provide more transparency into borrower relationships, or workflow tools that can send automatic reminders of which borrower to check in with and when. Banks can also use automated systems to conduct annual reviews of customers whose loans are at risk. Technology can support lenders by organizing borrower information and making it more accessible. This allows lenders to be more proactive and better support borrowers who are struggling.

Technology is also a valuable tool once loans is classified as special assets. Many banks still use manual, paper-based processes to accomplish time consuming tasks like running queries, filling out spreadsheets and writing monthly narratives.

While necessary for managing special assets, these processes can be cumbersome, inefficient and prone to error even during the best of times — let alone during a potential downturn, a period with little room for error. Banks can use technology to implement workflows that leverage reliable data and automate processes based directly on metrics, policies and configurations to help make downgraded loan management more efficient and accurate.

Fluctuating economic conditions can impact a borrower’s ability to maintain solid credit quality. Every institution has their own criteria for determining what classifies a loan as a special asset, like risk ratings, dollar amounts, days past due and accrual versus nonaccrual. Executives should make time to carefully consider evaluating their current criteria and determine if these rules should be modified to catch red flags sooner. Early action can make a world of difference.

Community banks have long been known for their dependability; in today’s uncertain economic landscape, customers will look to them for support more than ever. Through strategically leveraging technology to make processes more accurate and prioritizing the management of special assets, banks can keep a closer pulse on borrowers’ loans and remain resilient during tough times. While bankers can’t stop a recession, they can better insulate themselves and their customers against one.

3 Ways to Help Businesses Manage Market Uncertainty

Amid mounting regulatory scrutiny, heightened competition and rising interest rates, senior bank executives are increasingly looking to replace income from Paycheck Protection Program loans, overdrafts and ATM fees, and mortgage originations with other sources of revenue. The right capital markets solutions can enable banks of all sizes to better serve their business customers in times of financial uncertainty, while growing noninterest income.

Economic and geopolitical conditions have created significant market volatility. According to Nasdaq Market Link, since the beginning of the year through June 30, the Federal Reserve lifted rates 150 basis points, and the 10-year Treasury yielded between 1.63% and 3.49%. Wholesale gasoline prices traded between $2.26 and $4.28 per gallon during the same time span. Corn prices rose by as much as 39% from the start of the year, and aluminum prices increased 31% from January 1 but finished down 9% by the end of June. Meanwhile, as of June 30, the U.S. dollar index has strengthened 11% against major currencies from the start of the year.

Instead of worrying about interest rate changes, commodity-based input price adjustments or the changing value of the U.S. dollar, your customers want to focus on their core business competencies. By mitigating these risks with capital market solutions, banks can balance their business customers’ needs for certainty with their own desire to grow noninterest income. Here are three examples:

Interest Rate Hedging
With expectations for future rate hikes, many commercial borrowers prefer fixed rate financing for interest rate certainty. Yet many banks prefer floating rate payments that benefit from rising rates. Both can achieve the institution’s goals. A bank can provide a floating rate loan to its borrower, coupled with an interest rate hedge to mitigate risk. The bank can offset the hedge with a swap dealer and potentially book noninterest income.

Commodity Price Hedging
Many commercial customers — including manufacturers, distributors and retailers — have exposure to various price risks related to energy, agriculture or metals. These companies may work with a commodities futures broker to hedge these risks but could be subject to minimum contract sizes and inflexible contract maturity dates. Today, there are swap dealers willing to provide customized, over-the-counter commodity hedges to banks that they can pass down to their customers. The business mitigates its specific commodity price risk, while the bank generates noninterest income on the offsetting transaction.

International Payments and Foreign Exchange Hedging
Since 76% of companies that conduct business overseas have fewer than 20 employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a good chance your business customers engage in international trade. While some choose to hedge the risk of adverse foreign exchange movements, all have international payment needs. Banks can better serve these companies by offering access to competitive exchange rates along with foreign exchange hedging tools. In turn, banks can potentially book noninterest income by leveraging a swap dealer for offsetting trades.

Successful banks meet the needs of their customers in any market environment. During periods of significant market volatility, businesses often prefer interest rate, commodity price or foreign exchange rate certainty. Banks of all sizes can offer these capital markets solutions to their clients, offset risks with swap dealers and potentially generate additional income.

How to Capitalize on Sustainability Growth

The automotive sector is a vital part of the US economy, accounting for 3% of the country’s gross domestic product. But the increasing demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and evolving battery and fuel cell technology means it is experiencing incredible disruption. These ripple effects will be felt across the entire automotive value chain.

Three years ago, EVs represented just 2% of all new car sales in the U.S. A year later, it doubled to 4%. In 2021, it doubled again to 8%; this year, it’s forecast to double yet again to 16%. We can only expect this trend to continue. For example, California regulators unveiled a proposal in April to ban the sale of all new vehicles powered by gasoline by 2035, as the state pushes for more EV sales in the next four years.

How will these transition risks — which includes changing consumer demand, policy and technological disruption — impact the creditworthiness of the 18,000 new-car dealerships, 140,000 used-car dealerships and 234,700 auto repair and maintenance centers across the country? What are the implications for the banks that lend to them?

Some of the world’s largest automotive brands have published bold commitments that will hasten their transformation and the industry’s shift. Last year, Ford Motor Co. announced that it expects 40% to 50% of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030, while General Motors Co. plans to exclusively offer electric vehicles by 2035.

But these commitments won’t just impact the Fortune 500 companies that are making them – businesses of all sizes, across the automotive value chain, will be affected. To stay in business, these firms will need to update their supply chains and distribution models, invest in new technologies, processes, people and products. In some cases, they may even potentially need to build an entirely new brand.

Banks will have an important role to play in funding much of this transition.

The pool of potential borrowers is getting bigger. Opportunities for banks don’t just exist in being a partner for helping automotive businesses transition — there is also a growing number of new automotive businesses and business models designed for the net-zero future that will require funding as they scale. Tesla isn’t even two decades old but last year, it produced more than 75% of U.S. all-electric cars. With growing consumer demand for EVs, the need for more EV charging stations is also rising. The global market for EV charging stations is estimated to grow from $17.6 billion in 2021 to $111.9 billion in 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights.

Electrify America, ChargePoint, and EVgo are brands that didn’t exist 15 years ago because they didn’t need to. How many more businesses will be born in the next five, 10 or 15 years, which will need loans and investments to help them scale? This is an opportunity worth billions a year for banks — if they have the foresight to anticipate what’s coming and take a forward-looking view.

The Smaller the Detail, the Greater the Value
Currently, most climate analyses work at a broad sector level, looking no deeper than the sub-sector level. This provides some indication of a bank’s exposure, but such a broad view lacks the insight needed to really understand the impact and trends at the individual borrower level.

To get a true grasp on this opportunity, banks should look for solutions that include financial forecasts and credit metrics at the borrower level across several climate scenarios and time horizons. Institutions can directly input these outputs into their existing risk rating models to drive a climate-adjusted risk rating and apply them across the full credit lifecycle, from origination and ongoing monitoring to conducting portfolio level scenario analysis.

Throughout the pandemic, banks enjoyed a unique opportunity to rebuild public trust and goodwill that was lost during the financial crisis 12 years earlier. Climate change is another chance, given that sustainability will be the growth story of the 21st century. With the right technological investments, strategic partnerships and data, banks have an opportunity to be one of the protagonists.

OakNorth will be diving deep into the challenges and issues facing the automotive value chain in an upcoming industry webinar on June 16, 2022, at 1 p.m. EST. Register now at https://hubs.li/Q01bPN1v0.

The Digitalization of Commercial Lending

Commercial lending is a balance of risk and reward.

When properly managed, this business line can be a bank’s profit leader. Part of that competitive edge is employing a digital strategy specifically tailored to match your bank’s commercial lending vision. No doubt your institution has shifted resources to more fully support digital banking in 2020 — not only to benefit your customers, but to address the challenges of staff operating remotely. Automation that was thought to be nice-to-have became critical infrastructure both to expedite loan origination and to efficiently manage the volume of loan servicing. The commercial loan life cycle is evolving, creating opportunities for digital improvement at all stages.

Simplifying applications. While the banking industry lacks a standard commercial lending application, it is possible to dramatically reduce the burdensome data collection exercise that banks have traditionally required of their business borrowers. Technology can create significant lift during this phase. Integrating credit policy data into the digital application and automating the retrieval of public data to reduce the number of fields an applicant must complete can reduce the time required to complete an application to minutes.

The democracy of automated underwriting. Automated underwriting used to be premier software intelligence harnessed by only the most enterprising of institutions. However, as the technology has become more commonplace and pricing models have moderated, institutions of all sizes can take advantage of efficiencies that can shave weeks off the process.

Dynamic documenting. One of the many risks associated with commercial lending is the accuracy, validity and enforceability of the loan documentation. Compliance solutions that are integrated with loan origination systems minimize duplicate data entry and render a complete and compliant commercial loan document package based on an institution’s criteria. This technology can significantly reduce human touchpoints, improving the speed and efficiency with which loan documentation is assembled.

E-signing and paperless transactions. If any single innovation has already transformed the lending experience, it is e-signing. Electronic signatures and electronic contracts were granted validity and legal effect through the passage of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act. It’s been 20 years since the act became law, but e-signing commercial loan documents and conducting commercial loan transactions electronically have only recently gained wider traction with institutions. It’s evolved into an expectation of some customers, expedited in no small part by the continuing coronavirus pandemic and related social distancing guidelines.

Generally, commercial loans that are unsecured or secured by personal property can be paperless and conducted electronically. Those secured by real estate, on the other hand, have traditionally required some wet ink signatures because of notarization and recording requirements. However, electronic and remote notarization in conjunction with electronic recording has increased the likelihood of completely electronic and paperless transactions.

Twenty-five states have passed laws authorizing remote notarizations, with another 23 states implementing emergency remote notarization procedures in response to the pandemic. While state requirements of remote notarization vary, this potentially allows commercial loan documentation signed electronically to be notarized online instead of requiring parties to be physically present in the same room.

Electronic recording is rapidly becoming the standard for real property documents, with more than 68% of U.S. counties now supporting e-recording. Documents with the recording stamp can be returned immediately after recording, speeding up delivery of the recorded documents to the title insurance company. Electronic recording also allows for the e-signing of real property documents instead of requiring wet ink signatures.

The increasing availability of e-signing and electronic and remote notary technology and resources means more institutions will be able to move entirely to or provide support for electronic and paperless commercial loan transactions.

Automation in servicing. Many traditionally manual processes associated with the review, servicing, tracking and maintenance of commercial loan transactions can be automated. For example, transactions often require parties to provide financial documents to the institution. Instead of manually entering those requirements into a spreadsheet and creating calendar reminders, institutions can leverage technology to automate reports and reminders for the financial document delivery requirements. Similar automated reminders and tracking can be used for collateral, compliance, document and policy issues and exceptions.

The effect of these digitalization opportunities — available at every step in the process, aggregated over your portfolio — can significantly accelerate your institution’s transition to a more touchless loan process.

“The Best Strategic Thinker in Financial Services”


strategy-7-19-19.pngThe country’s most advanced bank is run by the industry’s smartest CEO.

Co-founder Richard Fairbank is a relentless strategist who has guided Capital One Financial Corp. on an amazing, 25-year journey that began as a novel approach to designing and marketing credit cards.

Today, Capital One—the 8th largest U.S. commercial bank with $373.2 billion in assets—has transformed itself into a highly advanced fintech company with national aspirations.

The driving force behind this protean evolution has been the 68-year-old Fairbank, an intensely private man who rarely gives interviews to the press. One investor who has known him for years—Tom Brown, CEO of the hedge fund Second Curve Capital—says that Fairbank “has become reclusive, even with me.”

Brown has invested in Capital One on and off over the years, including now. He has tremendous respect for Fairbank’s acumen and considers him to be “by far, the best strategic thinker in financial services.”

I interviewed Fairbank once, in 2006, for Bank Director magazine. It was clear even then that he approaches strategy like Sun Tzu approaches war. “A strategy must begin by identifying where the market is going,” Fairbank said. “What’s the endgame and how is the company going to win?”

Fairbank said most companies are too timid in their strategic planning, and think that “it’s a bold move to change 10 percent from where they are.” Instead, he said companies should focus on how their markets are changing, how fast they’re changing, and when that transformation will be complete.

The goal is to anticipate disruptive change, rather than chase it.

“It creates a much greater sense of urgency and allows the company to make bold moves from a position of strength,” he said.

This aggressive approach to strategy can be seen throughout the company’s history, beginning in 1988 when Fairbank and a former colleague, Nigel Morris, convinced Richmond, Virginia-based Signet Financial Corp. to start a credit card division using a new, data-driven methodology. The unit grew so big so fast that it dwarfed Signet itself and was spun off in 1994 as Capital One.

The company’s evolution since then has been driven by a series of strategic acquisitions, beginning in 2005 when it bought Hibernia Corp., a regional bank headquartered in New Orleans. Back then, Capital One relied on Wall Street for its funding, and Fairbank worried that a major economic event could abruptly turn off the spigot. He sought the safety of insured deposits, which led not only to the Hibernia deal but additional regional bank acquisitions in 2006 and 2008.

Brown says those strategic moves probably insured the company’s survival when the capital markets froze up during the financial crisis. “If they hadn’t bought those banks, there are some people like myself who don’t think Capital One would be around today,” he says.

As Capital One’s credit card business continued to grow, Fairbank wanted to apply its successful data-driven strategy to other consumer loan products that were beginning to consolidate nationally. Over the last 20 years, it has become one of the largest auto lenders in the country. It has also developed a significant commercial lending business with specialties like multifamily real estate and health care.

Capital One is in the midst of another transformation, to a national digital consumer bank. The company acquired the digital banking platform ING Direct in 2011 for $9 billion and rebranded it Capital One 360. Office locations have fallen from 1,000 in 2010 to around 500, according to Sandler O’Neill, as the company refocuses its consumer banking strategy on digital.

When Fairbank assembled his regional banking franchise in the early 2000s, the U.S. deposit market was highly fragmented. In recent years, the deposit market has begun to consolidate and Capital One is well positioned to take advantage of that with its digital platform.

Today, technology is the big driver behind Capital One’s transformation. The company has moved much of its data and software development to the cloud and rebuilt its core technology platform. Indeed, it could be described as a technology company that offers financial services, including insured deposit products.

“We’ve seen enormous change in our culture and our society, but the change that took place at Capital One’s first 25 years will pale in comparison to the quarter-century that’s about to unfold,” Fairbank wrote in his 2018 shareholders letter. “And we are well positioned to thrive as technology changes everything.”

At Capital One, driving change is Fairbank’s primary job.

Three Ways Directors Can Solve the 3,000-Year-Old Credit Problem


credit-7-9-19.pngHistory has shown that knowledge is power. One place that could use the benefit of that knowledge is commercial credit.

Banks have been lending to businesses for 3,000 years and has yet to figure out the commercial credit process. But executives and directors have an opportunity to fix this problem using data and digital capabilities to make the process more efficient and faster, and become the lending legends of their institutions.

In 1300 B.C. Egypt, the credit process looked something like this: A seafaring trader would trade bronze bowls with a local bronze merchant for cloth and garments. But to make this transaction, the bronze merchant would need to borrow from multiple merchant lenders. This process required lenders to understand the business plans of the borrower, go “door to door,” have community knowledge and know the value of all those goods. There were a lot of moving pieces—and a great deal of time—involved for that one transaction.

Fast-forward to today. A lot has changed in 3,000 years, but the commercial credit process has actually gone backwards. It can take a lender 60 to 90 days and more than $10,000 per lead to identify potential leads—and that’s before they review the application. After a borrower applies, the lender must look up credit reports, collect and spread financial statements and decide on the terms and conditions. Finally, the application goes through the credit department, which can take another 30 to 45 days and cost $5,000 per application.

Lenders will have spent all that time and effort to process the loan—but may not end up with a new customer to show for it. Meanwhile, borrowers will have spent time and effort to apply and wait—and may not have a loan to show for it.

While this problem has persisted for 3,000 years, the good news is that executives and directors have an opportunity to fix the problem by turning their manual-lending process into a digital-lending one. This evolution entails three steps that transform the current process from weeks of work into days.

First, a bank would use a digital-lending portal to gather applicable demographics to identify prospective borrowers. In researching prospects, they see critical borrower information such as name, address, years in business, legal structure, taxpayer identification number, history, business description and management team. Rather than having to wait until later in the process to uncover this critical information, they can immediately identify whether to pursue this lead and quickly move on.

Second, a bank uses a credit-decision engine to gather and analyze the applicable borrower data. Not only can the engine pull in consumer and credit bureau information, but it can also include automated financial collection, credit score and industry data for comparison. The bank can use data from this tool to determine terms and conditions, credit structure, purpose of credit facility, pricing, relationship models and cross-sell strategies.

Third and finally, the bank’s credit policy and process integrate with its credit-decision engine to enable an automated review of a loan application. This would include compliance checks, terms and conditions and credit structure. Since the data gathering and analysis has already taken place and automatically factored into the decision, there is no need to review all those pieces, as would be required with a manual process.

These three steps of this digital lending process have distilled a weeks-long process into about five days. Executives and directors can not only grow their institution in a shortened time period; they can do so without adding any risk. A bank I worked with that had $250 million in assets was able to add $20 million in loan volume without taking on any additional risk.

By using knowledge to their advantage and implementing a digital lending solution, bankers can save not just time and costs, but their institutions as well as their communities. They can now spend their limited time and resources where they matter most: growing relationships along with their banks. Having fixed the 3,000-year-old credit problem, they can place those challenges firmly in the past and focus on their future.

How To Make Construction Lending Less Risky


lending-8-14-18.pngWhen compared to the world economy as a whole, the construction industry lacks luster, at least in terms of its embrace (or lack thereof) of digital innovation. According to a 2017 report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the construction sector has grown by just one percent over the past two decades, while global economic growth has increased at nearly three times that rate. Construction was also the second-least digitized economic sector on MGI’s Digital Index, indicating a serious need for digitization, which could help boost the industry’s growth rate.

Another MGI report found a significant performance gap between industry members that leveraged digitization compared to those who don’t, “with the U.S. economy reaching only 18 percent of its digital potential.” The current lack of technology in the construction industry presents a clear opportunity for industry players establish industry leadership.

A Perfect Storm: Industry Growth Meets Digitization in a Burgeoning Economy
Despite political agitation and a series of natural disasters, 2017 proved to be a strong year for the housing market. Housing showed steady growth in spite of these external factors and a 10.5-percent decline between November 2015 and November 2016. Experts at Zillow believe the housing shortage will continue to drive housing market trends throughout 2018, swelling consumer demand for remodels and new construction.

Fueled by stable interest rates, a strong economy, and inventory shortages, the construction industry stands to enter a period of significant growth in 2018. As predicted by Dodge Data & Analytics, the industry could see a three percent increase with new construction starts in 2018 reaching an estimated $765 billion.

If the industry fails to digitize, it will likely struggle to keep pace with market demands. Currently, large construction projects take 20 percent longer than expected to reach completion and are up to 80 percent over budget. Not only do significant delays and expense oversights like these inhibit those working directly in the industry, such as contractors, sub-contractors, builders, and developers, but also those financing the projects. Missing project completion targets and budget goals makes improperly monitored construction lending a risky business. MGI lists improved “digital collaboration and mobility” as essential to the construction industry’s ability to meet its potential future growth.

Relieve Strain on Lender Resources with Digitization
Oldcastle Business Intelligence estimated in their 2018 Construction Forecast Report that construction, as a whole, would grow by 6 percent in 2018. This year is projected to see significant growth in single-family housing starts, estimated to increase 9 percent, with a predominant focus on Southern and Western regions. As housing and construction demands continue to climb, financial institutions stand to corner a substantial chunk of the growing market and increase revenue.

Historically, lenders have shied away from construction lending, viewing construction loan portfolios as administratively taxing and risky from both regulatory and credit decision perspectives. By bringing the construction loan administration process online through collaborative, cloud-based software, financial institutions can become industry leaders while relieving the burden on their lenders, mitigating risk, and improving the experience for everyone involved.

Reduce Risk with Construction Lending Software
The digitization of construction lending translates to less risk all around. Construction lending software streamlines the facilitation of compliance and regulatory timelines, reducing potential fines and penalties for non-compliance or loan file exceptions. In addition to the risks imposed on the industry by staunch government regulations, lenders also understand the high credit risk involved with traditional construction loans (and their many moving parts) due to their multifaceted, unpredictable nature.

Overseeing construction portfolios requires constant vigilance in tracking and monitoring cost estimates, advances, material purchases, labor costs, construction plans, and timelines, all while ensuring proper paperwork is filed and maintained for every transaction and correspondence.

Bringing the construction loan management process online gives lenders the ability to monitor their entire construction portfolio from one location. Real-time monitoring and alerts automatically highlight areas of concern, excessive advances, stale loans, maturities and overfunded projects. Digital oversight also allows lenders to foresee and correct potential problems with budget and timelines.

Increase Efficiencies Through Digitization
Financial institutions that implement a digital solution for construction loan administration drastically improve efficiencies, eliminating former portfolio limitations. By increasing efficiency, lenders can invest more time in bringing in additional business, approving more loans, and better serving existing clients.

Improve User Experience with Digital Lending
In addition to risk mitigation and efficiency gains, construction lending software also drastically improves the overall user experience in the construction loan administration process by providing a singular platform for communication throughout the life of each loan. Bringing the process online allows lenders, borrowers, builders, inspectors, and appraisers to collaborate and communicate in one place, preventing missed phone calls and the inevitable tangle of email correspondence.

How U.S. Bank Helps Distressed Borrowers


mortgage-7-4-18.pngLike many lenders during the Great Recession, U.S. Bank found itself with a large number of mortgage loan borrowers who couldn’t keep up with their payments, and it had little help to offer. This was bad for the bank and borrowers alike because mortgage loans that went into default often ended up in foreclosure, which drove up the bank’s costs while putting the borrower at risk of losing their home.

Scott Rodeman, a senior vice president for consumer loan servicing who joined the Minneapolis-based bank in 2014, knew there were resources available to distressed borrowers from his experience at a previous bank employer, and he reached out to SpringFour, a 13-year-old company headquartered in Chicago. SpringFour acts as a conduit to agencies and organizations that work directly with borrowers having trouble making their loan payments because of other financial issues, like the loss of a job or mounting medical bills from a serious illness.

“Coming out of the mortgage crisis, mortgage servicers were somewhat limited in how they could help their homeowners…stay in their homes,” says Rodeman, who is responsible or U.S. Bank’s mortgage, auto and consumer loan collections, repossession, recovery and loss mitigation operations. The bank could offer solutions to homeowners who still had some cash flow, but it had little advice for those who couldn’t even make a partial payment. “Really, our loan counselors had very few options to help them improve their financial cash flow to pay for home-related expenses, housing and things like that,” Rodeman says.

That’s where SpringFour comes in. The company provides a cloud-based technology solution called the S4 Desktop that allows lenders like U.S. Bank to refer distressed borrowers to nonprofit organizations and government agencies that can help them get their financial affairs in order. “When people get behind and can’t pay their bills, it’s really because of something that’s happening in their financial lives,” says SpringFour CEO and co-founder Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey. “There’s a lot of shame attached to financial challenges, so they don’t reach out and get help. We believe that when people are living paycheck to paycheck, they need and deserve to be connected to local resources that can help.”

U.S. Bank and SpringFour were co-finalists in Bank Director’s 2018 Best of FinXTech Innovative Solution of the Year award.

The S4 Desktop solution can be accessed by U.S. Bank service representatives by logging into the service via the web. From there, they can direct the borrower to agencies and organizations that can help that individual work through their financial crisis. A link to SpringFour can also be found on the U.S. Bank website. The SpringFour database contains over 10,000 resources in all 50 states, and Gorey says her firm is constantly vetting and curating the data to keep it up to date. “We have a professional data team that is assessing the nonprofits for track record, reputation, funding and capacity to assist,” she says. “We’ve built a strong track record of trust with our financial institution clients. They know when they make a referral through SpringFour, it’s going to be accurate.”

Because the S4 solution is cloud-based, there were no implementation issues to speak of, according to Rodeman. “There was no technical work or development work really,” he says. “It was all customer-facing edits to our existing processes. Then, of course, training our employees to offer the service and manage that just like any other call center function.”

U.S. Bank has been working with SpringFour for about two years, and Rodeman says the program has shown tangible results. “Consumers that receive these referrals are twice as likely to engage in some kind of loan workout strategy with us rather than just allow the house to go into foreclosure,” he says. “That’s a significant number.” Mortgage borrowers that receive referrals are also 10 percent more likely to remain current with their mortgage. An equally important if less tangible benefit is that the program has enabled the bank to build a deeper relationship with its customers. “Coming out of the crisis, consumers were afraid of their mortgage servicers,” says Rodeman. “For us to see that kind of engagement rate increase shows that we’re building rapport and trust with our customers.”

If U.S. Bank had access to the SpringFour program during the mortgage crisis, Rodeman believes it would have helped reduce the number of foreclosures. The economy is much healthier today, of course. But even now there are borrowers who need help making their loan payments, “Based on our numbers in an improving economy, I don’t see why it wouldn’t have [helped] back then.”

How Pinnacle Improved the Efficiency of Construction Loan Management


partnership-6-27-18.pngWhen banks make a construction loan on a new office building or housing development, the funds usually are not provided to the borrower in a lump sum, but instead are dispersed as various project milestones are achieved. The administration of these credits are often handled on a simple spreadsheet—one for every loan. That might work for a small community bank that only makes a handful of construction loans a year, but not for Pinnacle Financial Partners, a $23 billion asset regional bank headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee that considers construction lending to be an important business it wants to scale in the future.

Pinnacle wanted a more efficient way of administering its construction loan portfolio, particularly after a series of acquisitions of other banks that also did construction lending. “We’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency,” says Pinnacle Senior Vice President Dale Floyd. “Coming out of the recession, we were growing fairly fast, had merged a couple of banks into us and everyone was doing construction lending differently. We needed some consistency throughout the organization, and to try to be more efficient at the same time.”

And that led Pinnacle to another Nashville-based company, Built Technologies, which has developed an automated construction lending platform that not only centralizes the administrative process, but promises to be an effective risk management tool as well. “Construction loans require coordination between the bank, the borrower, the contractor, the title company and third-party inspectors to review the progress of the project,” says Built CEO Chase Gilbert. Now all of these parties are connected in real time and everyone is looking at the same information instead of information silos, and the draw process can be managed more proactively. “We bring that process online to the benefit of everyone involved.”

Pinnacle and Built were co-finalists in Bank Director’s 2018 Best of FinXTech Startup Innovation award.

The benefits to Pinnacle begin with greater speed and efficiency. “It cuts down on phone calls and emails and paper,” says Floyd. “It reduces the chances for errors … because the [loan] doesn’t have to go through so many hands.” When banks are using simple spreadsheets to administer their construction loans and a builder wants to make a draw against their loan, an inspector will have to drive to the project site and assess whether the required work has been completed, drive back and write up a report authorizing a dispersal. With the Built platform, all this happens much faster. “[All the information] is there and it’s immediate,” says Floyd.

The platform also provides the bank with an enhanced risk management capability. “We do a lot of large loans,” Floyd explains. “I can pull a report at any time of every loan I have over $1 million, by location and by builder. I can track loans that have been fully funded, or I can track loans that we’ve closed but no disbursements have been made for three months. If we see that we want to know why. What has caused this project to stall?”

And when state and federal examiners come into the bank, Floyd can “pull up any loan that they want to see and look at the inspection reports, look at the pictures and see all the numbers,” he says. “That information is there for as long as we want to store it.”

Gilbert says Built spent nine months getting to know Pinnacle and understanding the bank’s goals for construction lending before work commenced on the project. “Pinnacle is a high growth bank and it was looking for something that would allow it to scale [that business],” he says. “The bank is also fanatical about customer experience and it wanted to find a way of giving its borrowers and builders a best-in-class experience.”

Floyd says Built also made some changes to the platform at the bank’s request—for example, building in a feature allowing a borrower to overdraw their loan with the bank’s approval if the situation warrants it. “They’re constantly looking for input,” he says. “They want to make the system better all the time.” And the new platform was easy to implement, according to Floyd. “That’s one of the things I was surprised about,” he says. “The training time is very short, and it’s very user friendly.”

Citizens Bank and Fundation Mobilize Credit Delivery


partnership-5-16-18.pngWhile Citizens Bank and Fundation are certainly not the first bank and fintech company to work collaboratively together, theirs is unlike any other, both parties say, because of the relationship that exists between the two organizations.

Providence, Rhode Island-based Citizens, a top-20 U.S. bank at $152 billion in assets, partnered with Fundation, a fintech firm in Reston, Virginia that focuses on credit delivery to improve the efficiency and turnaround time for small business loans under $150,000.

Fundation’s technology serves as the entire front end, essentially a white-labeled online application, for Citizens’ commercial lending line of products, providing a technology platform that includes underwriting, closing and engagement tools, and features a decision engine that, based on certain criteria, determines “up front” which loan goes to Citizens and which to Fundation, according to Jack Murphy, president of the business banking division at Citizens.

“What makes the partnership unique is there’s a fair amount of folks in this space who outsource this type of lending to the partner,” Murphy said. Instead, the application process is integrated into Citizens’ own digital platform, a top priority for the bank, Murphy said.

“We wanted to integrate (it) into our technology.”

Citizens and Fundation won Bank Director’s Best of FinXTech Partnership award, presented May 10 at the FinXTech Annual Summit, held at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The platform allows for an entirely electronic application process, and enables Citizens’ lending team to physically go to and visit its small business customers to start or complete that application. Customers can also begin the application process in a branch, and finish at home, “or in their car,” Murphy joked, though he doesn’t advocate driving and applying for a commercial loan at the same time.

“It’s really become the front-end to our core underwriting system,” Murphy said.

Fundation has multiple bank clients, but its credit delivery platform uses data and a decision engine to automate much of the decision-making framework that many banks have and still use when reviewing applications. It also simplifies the compliance assessment, including the Customer Due Diligence (CDD) final rule that was developed just two years ago and became effective in May 2018.

There is automated scoring in approving small loans, allowing Citizens to focus its human capital on other strategies, like bigger, more intensive applications and projects that need more careful review while also reducing paperwork that can be cumbersome. It also has in some ways upended the entire underwriting process—they use bank statements instead of financial statements as part of the application process, and the technology determines which loan goes to the bank and which goes to the partner automatically up front.

The technology has only been available to all customers since the end of March 2018, but getting to that point involved months of due diligence, whittling down a list of nearly two dozen other firms before ultimately selecting Fundation.
“We took about a year to research who might be the best partner for us,” Murphy said, noting that it all began with the goal of improving the customer experience through a digital platform.

The board considered whether to buy, build or partner with a fintech, but ultimately there was only one choice.
“The fintechs have not had the balance sheets or cost of funds or the customer bases that the banks have, so partnership is really the best way for the two companies to business,” Murphy said.

Culture and cohesion between the two companies was half the driving force behind the decision to choose Fundation, Murphy said, in a crowded and competitive fintech market. Murphy said they wanted to partner with somebody who was “not just a tech company,” but a “partner that has a similar vision.”

Like other banks, Citizens has several relationships with fintech companies which provide other services, like SigFig, for instance, a tech-based personal investment platform. But Fundation offered something that was new to the bank, and has in just a short time already proven its worth.

It’s shortened the time from application to credit delivery to as little as three days, which in previous generations could have taken weeks, and generated “many multiples” of increased demand since a series of pilots with the software last fall.

The transformation of this credit delivery, he said, is far more than what some banks have done, which Murphy described rudimentarily as simply taking a paper-based loan application and converting it to an online webform.
“That’s not digital,” Murphy said. “Digital is literally the entire experience being electronic.”

Citizens wanted to make its application process fully digital, Murphy said, which has reduced costs and improved efficiency for the bank. And that result has not only transformed the bank’s commercial lending process, but how it strategizes its future.

“This is for us, I would say step one in a journey of multiple products and multiple ways of making it easier to do business with the bank, not vice versa,” Murphy said.