Six Reasons Banks Are Consenting to C-PACE Financing


lending-8-13-19.pngBanks looking to stay abreast of emerging commercial real estate trends should consider an innovative way to fund certain energy improvements.

Developers increasingly seek non-traditional sources to finance construction projects, making it crucial that banks understand and embrace emerging trends in the commercial real estate space. Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing is one of the fastest-growing source of capital for new construction and historic rehabilitation developments throughout the country, and banks are jumping on board to consent to the use of this program.

C-PACE financing programs allow for private funders, like Twain Financial Partners, to provide long-term, fixed-rate financing for 100% of the cost of energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation components of real estate development projects. This financing often replaces more expensive pieces of the construction capital stack, like mezzanine debt or preferred equity. Currently, over 35 states have passed legislation enabling C-PACE; new programs are currently in development in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, among others.

C-PACE financing can typically fund up to 25% of the total construction budget, is repaid as a special assessment levied against the property and is collected in the same manner as property taxes. Like other special assessments, a lien for delinquent C-PACE assessments is on par with property taxes. Due to the lien priority, nearly all C-PACE programs require the consent of mortgage holders prior to a C-PACE assessment being levied against the property.

C-PACE industry groups report that over 200 national, regional and local mortgage lenders have consented to the use of this type of financing to date. While there are many reasons mortgage holders consent to C-PACE, below are the top six reasons banks should consider consenting:

C-PACE Financing Cannot be Accelerated. In the event of a default in the payment of an annual or semi-annual C-PACE assessment obligation, only the past due portion of the C-PACE financing is senior to a mortgage lender’s claim. For example, assume Twain Financial provided $1 million of C-PACE financing to a project, with a $100,000 annual assessment obligation due each year over a 20-year term. In the event of non-payment of the C-PACE assessment in year 1, Twain could not accelerate the entire $1 million of C-PACE. Rather, Twain’s lien against the property is limited to $100,000.

C-PACE Financing Does Not Restrict a Senior Lender’s Foreclosure Rights. Unlike other forms of mezzanine financing, C-PACE funders do not require an intercreditor agreement with a senior lender. Rather, the senior lender can foreclose on its mortgage interest in the property in the event of a default on the senior lender’s debt, in the same manner as if it was the sole lienholder on the property. The C-PACE lender does not have any right to prevent, restrict, or otherwise impact the senior lender’s foreclosure.

Senior Lenders May Escrow the C-PACE Assessment. In many cases, senior lenders will require a monthly escrow of the annual C-PACE assessment obligation, in the same manner as property tax and insurance escrow requirements. The C-PACE escrow serve to further mitigate risks associated with the failure to pay the C-PACE assessment when due.

C-PACE Funds Fully Available as of Date of Closing. C-PACE financing typically closes simultaneous with the senior lender. At the closing date, all C-PACE funds are deposited into an escrow account, to be withdrawn as eligible costs are incurred. Senior lenders have the reassurance of knowing the funds are available to be drawn as of the date of closing.

C-PACE Financing May Increase the Value of the Senior Lender’s Collateral. In most states, a threshold requirement for C-PACE financing is that an engineer establish the savings-to-investment ratio is greater than one. In other words, the savings achieved by the financed improvements over the term must outweigh the cost of the improvements. PACE projects directly reduce a building’s operating costs, increasing its net operating income and valuation.

Relationships matter. Nearly every C-PACE project involves a lender’s customer who wants or needs to complete a project. C-PACE funded projects make good business sense for the building owner and the building’s mortgage lender.

The Huge Lending Opportunity You’re Overlooking


entrepreneur-4-12-19.pngSince opening her Brooklyn-based gym, HIIT Box, four years ago, Maryam Zadeh has been featured for her fitness expertise in publications like Marie Claire magazine and Self.com. This exposure has caused business to explode.

The number of clients and revenue have tripled, she says. HIIT Box has relocated three times in four years to pursue more space. And there’s still a waitlist to join.

But despite this success, Zadeh has struggled to obtain the capital she needs to keep up with the rapid growth of her business. She initially invested her own money—a $13,000 inheritance—and later obtained $35,000 from American Express (her payment processor, through its working capital program) and two smaller loans totaling $27,000 from the online lending platform Biz2Credit.

But it wasn’t enough, and other lenders turned her down when she sought additional capital to move into a bigger space. So, she turned to customers to fill the funding gap, offering her 40 largest clients a discount if they paid a lump sum up front. Twenty-three clients took advantage of her offer. “That’s what gave us that big chunk of money [for] construction, because no lender would give it to us,” says Zadeh.

Growing pains like these are common among female entrepreneurs.

Women own more than 11 million businesses in the U.S., or 39 percent of businesses, according to a 2017 study commissioned by American Express—a number that has risen over the past 2 decades. A Bank of America survey published last year found that 56 percent of female entrepreneurs plan to grow their business over the next five years. To do so, however, many of them will need to raise capital.

“Women-owned firms face persistent funding gaps and funding source mismatches,” according to a study published in 2016 by the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Kansas City. Twenty-eight percent of women-owned firms applying for a loan over the previous year were not approved for any funds, and 64 percent obtained less money than they needed.

Some banks have developed educational programs to better engage this potentially lucrative demographic.

Renasant Bank, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, launched its “Nest” program in March, which provides financial education to female entrepreneurs. It’s part of a larger bank-wide program focused on developing female leaders, both in the community and within the bank.

Tracey Morant Adams, the chief community development and corporate social responsibility officer at the $13 billion asset bank, saw that female entrepreneurs often weren’t as comfortable discussing the financial position of their business. They also didn’t understand the financing options available to them and were more likely to rely on personal wealth—dipping into their retirement savings, for example—to fund their small business.

Renasant will use a lunch-and-learn format to explain financial basics—how to read pro forma financial statements, for example—so women can gain the confidence and knowledge they need to understand their financial position. Renasant will also explain the funding solutions available, and how to understand which one is the best fit for their business—when a line of credit is more appropriate than a credit card, for instance.

Ultimately, at least in theory, some of these women will seek a loan or deepen their relationship with the bank. “You have to be intentional and deliberate in your efforts to reach out and find that business,” says Adams. “The Nest is going to allow us to be more intentional, particularly in that female space.”

Bank of America’s study asked female entrepreneurs to identify solutions to address the funding gap women face. Twenty-four percent pointed to education—echoing the importance of programs like Renasant’s.

But even more women—42 percent—pointed to the need for gender-blind financing to reduce the role that unconscious bias—and outright sexism—play in the loan application process.

When she’s applied for capital, Zadeh—the CEO and sole founder of her company—has been asked where her (male) partner is. Some have assumed she was running a yoga studio, not a gym. She’s even been asked if she can do push-ups. (She can.)

Women—and small business owners in general—are more likely to be approved for a business loan by a small bank than any other option, according to the FedTwitter_Logo_Blue.png But despite higher approval rates at small banks, women are more likely to seek funding from a large bank or online lender.

business-loans-chart.png 

Stories like Zadeh’s may explain what’s driving women to online lenders and larger banks. “Everything is driven by the data, and there is no possibility of any kind of gender bias,” says Rob Rosenblatt, the head of lending for the online lending platform Kabbage.

Applying online, in theory, reduces bias, so a female applicant could be more optimistic that her loan would be approved.

For women seeking to grow their businesses, access to capital can make a big difference—and expand lending opportunities for the banks that enhance their efforts to this group.

Seven Costly Mistakes Banks Make With Their Small Business Loan Applications


lending-10-30-17.pngAll aspects of banking are going through a remarkable technological evolution. Customers are clamoring for all things digital, from making deposits to easily paying the babysitter. Small business owners are not immune. They are now starting to demand that their bank embrace technology after seeing the benefits that come from an accessible, digitized lending experience online, thanks in part to the technology being utilized by modern banks and alternative lenders.

Here are seven costly mistakes banks make with their current loan applications:

1. Your loan application process takes too much time.
Does this sound familiar? Your potential borrower drives to a branch to pick up a paper application, fills it in, realizes he or she doesn’t have all the information and leaves the bank, returning the application to the branch days or weeks later. Your team looks it over, and there are still missing documents, so the whole process from beginning to end can take weeks and sometimes months.

It’s a universal struggle in lending. With the correct technology, the documents your staff needs can be uploaded easily online, automatic reminders can be sent to the borrower for missing documents, and when terms are offered the technology will automatically request the documents your bankers need. It’s amazing how much time technology can and will save your team.

2. Your applications are still only on paper.
It’s a risky business when your prospective borrower goes to your website to apply for a loan only to be met with a prompt to “contact us to apply.” Your most eager customers will call but who knows where everyone else will go? Are you losing business to alternative lenders? That’s a possibility.

3. You need to reduce the workload for your team.
Let’s be honest. Your staff wears many hats in today’s modern bank branch. More and more branch managers are having to chase after documents for small business loans. Take the burden off the team and let technology do the hard work. Look for technology to utilize automation to request missing documents via a secure portal and let your managers get back to what really matters: providing great customer service.

4. Your bank needs to conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Is your current application accessible to the blind or those who have low vision? An interactive pdf that your borrower can fill out and send via email will no longer be acceptable as those forms are often not accessible to blind people who use screen readers. Your bank needs technology that has created software that exceeds current standards and requirements for accessibility.

5. Reporting and analytics take too much time.
You and your team need a transparent workflow. When your team has the analytics and the ability to track how many people are viewing, starting, and completing your application, your team can do a better job of forecasting the week ahead along with creating targeted marketing campaigns.

6. Your bank struggles with data.
Creating, storing, and using data will become more and more important as new regulations are created. Use technology to your advantage and gain a significant competitive edge through automatic reminders to complete applications and the ability to gather data for retarget marketing.

In addition, reduce risk and time spent rekeying information by having a central location for data. Your goal should be to have the borrower enter their information when they are ready. No longer would your staff have to waste valuable time rekeying information from paper.

7. Communication within the bank is less than stellar.
You are ready to make internal collaboration easier and knowing where each loan is in the process gives visibility so everyone on your team can stay on track and know what’s coming their way, helping facilitate cross departmental communication to accelerate the loan’s end-to-end time.

Increased efficiency, profitability, productivity and enhanced customer experience are all reasons why digitizing your loan application should be a top priority for next year. For example, in most banks, the administrative and overhead costs to underwrite a $50,000 loan and a $1 million loan are essentially the same, making $50,00 loans less attractive to the bank. Simplifying the process and achieving greater efficiency may grow your loan volume as well. It’s time to make the shift from traditional applications and revolutionize the lending experience for your borrower.

WSFS Financial and LendKey Partner to Refinance Student Debt


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With over $1.4 trillion in total student loan debt in the U.S., refinancing is growing in popularity as young professionals seek to get the lowest rates at manageable payment terms. With upwards of 44 million people currently paying off student loan debt, refinancing is a trend that’s quickly picking up steam.

For banks, this represents a huge opportunity to help their existing customers refinance student loans, as well as attract new ones. But with established fintech players like SoFi and CommonBond already established in the student debt refinancing space, banks are beginning to develop technology-oriented partnerships to compete in a still underserved market.

Consider the case of WSFS Financial Corp., headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, which has 77 offices in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Nevada. In addition to its core banking services, WSFS realized there was an opportunity to expand its consumer lending portfolio to a new generation of customers—mainly students and recent college graduates.

Given this demographic’s average student debt of $35,000, there was an obvious opportunity for the bank to offer a student loan and refinancing product. At the time, however, WSFS lacked the internal technology resources to gain traction in the market. This, in addition to regulatory and compliance hurdles related to the student lending asset class, led WSFS to seek out a technology partner with experience in the student lending space.

The result was a partnership with LendKey, a lending platform and online marketplace that enables consumers to easily refinance their student loans. New York-based LendKey works with over 300 credit union clients, with a combined loan portfolio of over $700 million, to provide technology that enables consumers to find the best refinancing options at their local credit unions.

“We were interested in partnering [with LendKey] because we didn’t really have a student loan program, and they have a very good one, as well as a good delivery method to get to borrowers,” explains Lisa Brubaker, senior vice president and director of retail strategy at WSFS. “It helped fill our product gap.”

With WSFS’s student loan refinancing offerings available on the LendKey marketplace, WSFS was in position to enter the market with an experienced technology partner. LendKey also allowed WSFS to set the credit risk and underwriting standards for all loans, ensuring a balanced lending portfolio. LendKey helped WSFS’s student refinancing program to comply with all regulations. The new venture was launched once the two companies had agreed to team up.

Initially, WSFS relied on its own internal pricing on student loan products, and although its rates and offerings were solid, WSFS had entered the market rather quietly. The promotional support was light, and pricing wasn’t competitive with many other lenders. During the first two years of the program, WSFS generated less than $1 million in total loan disbursements—not the kind of market traction that was hoped for.

What followed next is indicative of what makes WSFS’s partnership with LendKey so innovative and (now) successful. In 2016, WFSF engaged LendKey’s account management team, seeking LendKey’s expertise on how the program could be more visible and competitive, without significantly impacting credit risk. The LendKey team evaluated WSFS’ competitiveness in the student refinancing market and made some recommendations. In response, WSFS repriced its loan program and placed itself prominently on the LendKey Network, a market for lenders to both directly promote and fulfill refinancing loans. With this pivot, WSFS’s refinancing program became more readily available to borrowers in every state within the bank’s market footprint.

Since the repricing and strategic shift to the LendKey Network, WSFS has been experiencing significant success in the student loan refinancing marketplace. WSFS’s student loan portfolio volume has grown by a whopping 54,000 percent since 2013, the year prior to the initiation of the LendKey partnership. And by performing an initial credit check on all applicants, LendKey is helping WSFS make faster decisions on whether to approve individual borrowers.

Today, LendKey continues to work with WSFS to enhance its student lending products, providing additional data analysis and credit risk reporting. LendKey’s insights-driven approach is enabling WSFS to grow its portfolio and reach new customers in a highly competitive marketing—while simultaneously maintaining strong credit risk controls.

“Our view is to take the best-of-breed from marketplace lenders [like LendKey] to deliver to our customers without losing that personal touch that we value,” Brubaker says.

How NBKC Bank Made Mortgages User Friendly with Roostify


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For consumers, getting a mortgage can be a daunting task. Securing a home loan can take weeks (or months) from application to closing, in large part because the process often still requires offline and manual tasks. That’s not an ideal scenario for consumers who want to get in their new home, or for lenders trying to deliver a top-notch customer experience.

That was the challenge facing NBKC Bank, a full-service bank headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas. In 2014, the consumer-direct bank, which generated $2.5 billion in loans last year, realized that their internet application system was becoming a liability that could hold the bank back from further growth.

NBKC allowed clients to apply for loans online in 2014, but the application’s limited functionality didn’t provide the kind of experience the bank wanted to offer its customers, and generated unnecessary extra work for the loan officers. Based on older technology, the online application’s user interface was beginning to look obsolete. Making matters worse, the technology that powered the application was no longer completely reliable. “We often heard from borrowers that they completed [the application],” recalls Dan Stevens, the bank’s vice president of mortgage strategy. “But we didn’t always receive it.”

Another pain point was that the existing application couldn’t support a full online experience. Loan officers would still need to call the consumer after the application was submitted to complete the application. Due to the bank’s unreliable application system, consumers were sometimes asked for information they had already provided online, which was frustrating for everyone involved.

To address these problems, NBKC partnered with Roostify, a San Francisco-based fintech startup that provides a mortgage loan platform that enables faster closings and a more efficient, transparent loan process. The company bills itself as helping lenders provide user-friendly online applications, and offering online document and collaboration tools to cut down on the time-consuming manual tasks that can stretch out a mortgage approval process.

NBKC chose Roostify after seeing a demo highlighting the user experience for both the borrower and loan officer. Roostify provides NBKC with a highly usable consumer-facing online application, which the bank could white-label to present consumers with a branded NBKC online experience.

Through Roostify, NBKC’s customers can now apply for a mortgage in as little as 20 minutes without the need for a phone call or manual intervention from a loan officer. More customers are completing applications, too. Stevens confirmed that the updated process was a hit with NBKC’s customers. “Expectations [for an online experience] are super high. Hearing no complaints, with an extremely high usage and completion rate, shows us that it’s well received by our borrowers.”

NBKC was also able to use Roostify’s automation features to help improve internal productivity by reducing manual processes, particularly around documentation.

“One of the biggest selling points for us in 2014 was the creation of a customized required document list,” explained Stevens. “Not every loan application requires the same documents, so for it to be able to match the borrower’s personal situation with the loan program they were wanting, and giving them this information without needing to ever talk to a loan officer, was an outstanding upgrade in our workflow.”

Eliminating repetitive manual tasks like generating document lists and going over applications by phone freed up time for NBKC’s loan officers to process more loans, contributing to an overall increase in productivity. Between 2014 and 2016, NBKC saw their average loans nearly double, from 6.5 to 12.2 loans per loan officer per month.

Banks and fintech startups alike face stiff competition in most areas of financial services, and banks like NBKC highlight the importance of offering a seamless digital customer experience. The bank’s partnership with Roostify illustrates how savvy use of technology platforms can also benefit the lender’s bottom line.

When a Banker Becomes an Entrepreneur



James “Chip” Mahan has a colorful past as a banker who turned himself into a tech entrepreneur. He went from a failed attempt at a hostile takeover of his hometown community bank at the age of 31 to launching the first internet bank in the 1990s, Security First Network Bank, as well as developing a successful technology company that sold internet applications to banks called SQ Corp. Later, he founded what is now one of the largest Small Business Administration lenders in the country, Live Oak Bank, and used it as a jumping off point for a technology platform that is sold to other banks, nCino, which speeds up loan processing.

He speaks here with Naomi Snyder, editor of Bank Director digital magazine on the following topics:

  • The need for a new commercial lending platform
  • The two things customers most want to know
  • Advice for entrepreneurial minded bankers
This video first appeared in the Bank Director digital magazine.

Franklin Synergy Bank Partners with Built Technologies to Streamline Construction Lending


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For banks that finance construction projects, managing their loan portfolio—and particularly the draw disbursement process—can be an especially burdensome undertaking.

Most construction projects financed by a bank contain a draw schedule, which is a timeline of intervals for which funds will be disbursed to borrowers and contractors for use. The goal for banks is to make progressive payments as work is completed. Disbursing funds before work is completed or materials have been delivered puts the bank’s capital at risk. Late disbursement often entails delayed projects and poor client satisfaction.

The problem is, many banks have an arduous, time consuming—and ultimately costly—process for fulfilling draw requests. Which is exactly the challenge that Franklin Synergy Bank (FSB) had been facing for quite some time. Headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, FSB operates with 12 branches, servicing over $400 million in construction and development (C&D) loans. FSB’s loan administration and draw disbursement processes were fraught with administrative headaches: large staffing overhead, heavy phone call volume, duplicate data entry into multiple systems, use of multiple spreadsheets, unmanageable email communications and antiquated fax and paper usage.

In short, FSB’s loan administration approach was not only costing the bank time and money, but it wasn’t allowing it to deliver a top-notch customer experience for their clients. Seeing technology as the most plausible solution to these issues, FSB decided to partner with Nashville-based enterprise software company Built Technologies. A web-based application with mobile functionality, Built’s application is designed to simplify draw management and disbursement for construction lenders like FSB. Built also allows clients and borrowers to manage the loan from their end, delivering a more seamless customer experience. In addition, borrowers and contractors gain more visibility into the draw management process, increasing confidence in their lending institution.

Prior to partnering with Built and implementing the firm’s platform, FSB had to handle most of the draw process manually. A single residential construction loan draw might involve an average of eight back-and-forth emails prior to approval, in addition to significant manual data entry. As a result, FSB’s loan portfolio had grown more expensive to manage, harder to report against and more prone to human error.

After the Built implementation, FSB no longer needs to receive emails to manage construction draws. Upon closing, the bank loads a new loan into the Built platform and grants the borrow, builder and inspector access based on specific user-based permission levels. The borrower or builder can then simply log into the platform and request a draw, triggering an automated series of events within a pre-defined workflow that facilitated only a single approval touchpoint at the end of the process on FSB’s end. Built then releases funds in an automated and fully documented fashion that saves time and energy across all user groups—including builders, borrowers, loan officers and inspectors. The result is providing construction borrowers the same level of access, visibility and convenience that retail customers experience when they bank online.

Adopting the Built platform has allowed FSB to streamline its construction loan administration team from four employees to two full-time and one part-time staff members. And the team went from managing roughly 750 loans at any given time to an increased capacity of over 1,000 loans. FSB was also able to reduce its draw processing time from 24 hours to a mere 30 seconds, resulting in both an increase in interest income and client satisfaction. Human error has been substantially decreased, and Built’s reporting capabilities have provided FSB greater insight into its construction lending portfolio. FSB can now easily identify, and proactively address, overfunded draw requests and stalled construction projects. In fact, this might be the most innovative aspect of the Built and FSB partnership, because it enables the bank to manage its construction loan risk better than its competitors.

The partnership between FSB and Built is a fitting example of a regional partnership setting the pace for what’s likely to be a national trend. Manual and paper processes are a productivity drain on businesses in any industry in terms of time, money and customer satisfaction. And with the enormous amounts of capital invested in building projects, nowhere is this more evident than the construction lending sector. Once other lenders realize the return on investment that merging technology with their loan management and draw disbursement processes can result in, similar partnerships are sure to follow.

This is one of 10 case studies that focus on examples of successful innovation between banks and financial technology companies working in partnership. The participants featured in this article were finalists at the 2017 Best of FinXTech Awards.

How to Pick the Right Digital Small Business Lending Tool: Top 10 Must Have Characteristics


lending-4-24-17.pngHaving access to online lending applications has quickly transitioned from a customer convenience to a customer expectation. It’s only a matter of time before all institutions will be providing digital access to small business lending. That much is certain. What isn’t certain is how to find the right fintech partner. Your partner should understand your institution’s lending processes and digital strategy in that space, and provide you with a solution that meets your unique objectives.

Here are the top 10 characteristics you should demand from any digital business lending partner.

1. Friend Not a Foe Business Model
It’s obvious, I know, but find a partner who is not a competitor of yours. There are business lending fintech companies that once had designs on putting banks and credit union lending departments out of business. If the businesses you serve can also go to your partner’s website and apply directly with them for a loan, they’re not a partner. They are a competitor.

2. Timely End-to-End Functionality
Current business lending processes are onerous for both the client and the bank. Applications are submitted incompletely 60 percent of the time, and data is bounced from one party to another and back again. Technology does an amazing job of doing things right the first time every time. The value in your business lending tool resides in its ability to help facilitate everything from the application to closing the loan.

3. Endorsed by a Trusted Source
Most of the financial services industry’s trusted resources and trade associations provide their members with a list of solutions for which they have completed comprehensive due diligence and identified as an endorsed solution. Entities, like the American Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association and others, have the resources to conduct due diligence on the companies they recommend. Leverage their expertise.

4. Control…Control…Control
The institution must be able to retain control over every aspect of the process. Your clients should never even know the tech partner exists. The brand, the credit policy, pricing, scoring, decisions, and all aspects of the customer relationship must be fully owned and controlled by the institution.

5. Customer Experience
Find a tech partner that shares your philosophy of putting the borrower at the center of the process. Look for a tool that creates an engaging, simple, and even fun environment for the application portion of the process, and results in a speedier, more efficient and convenient end-to-end process.

6. Enhances Productivity
Find tech that frees up your sales staff to sell, and allows your back office to spend minutes—not hours—making a decision on a business loan. Sales teams should spend their time growing relationships and sourcing new deals as opposed to shepherding deals through the process or chasing documentation. With the right tool, back office can analyze deals quickly and spend more time on second look processes or inspecting larger deals.

7. Builds the Loan Portfolio
Find a tech solution so good that it will draw new opportunities into your shop—even those folks who would never think about walking into a branch. And make sure the application process can accommodate both the borrower who is online and independent, as well as the borrower who wants to sit next to a banker and complete the application together.

8. The Human Touch
The most important relationship is the one between banker and customer. Don’t lose the personal touch by using technology that cuts out the value the banker brings to the relationship. Instead, find a tool that engages the relationship managers and facilitates their trusted advisor status.

9. Positive Impact on Profitability
By finding a tool that enhances productivity across the board, you should be able to reduce cost-per-loan booked by as much as two-thirds. That means even the smallest business loans should be processed profitably.

10. Cloud-Based Model
The best way to keep pace with innovation in a cost-effective manner is to find a partner that uses the latest technology, development processes and a cloud-based model, which enhances storage capabilities. Your partner should update and enhance often, and not nickel and dime you for every enhancement or upgrade.

Stick to these guidelines and you’ll be sure to find the right tool for your unique institution.

Beating SMB Alt Lenders at Their Own Game


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Small businesses are an important segment for banks and credit unions with aggressive growth goals. In the United States, small businesses make up 99.7 percent of employer firms, according to the SBA FAQ Sheet. The top concern for these firms is managing their cash flow needs, which creates a great lending opportunity for banks and credit unions. Unfortunately, it can be a difficult opportunity for them to take advantage of because of their antiquated processes.

As Steven Martin, vice president of strategy at Sageworks, discussed during a recent webinar, the demographic composition of small business owners is shifting away from baby boomers and towards Gen X’ers and millennials. These younger business owners are more tech-savvy than their parents. They are more used to shopping online, including for credit and financing solutions. Additionally, many small business owners are too busy running their businesses to leave to visit a branch to begin the application process. When these small business owners go online looking for loans, they find that over 80 percent of banks and credit unions do not offer a way to apply for a loan online. This causes many small business owners to turn to alternative lenders for credit. These “alt lenders” can provide the funds faster and offer an end-to-end online experience. The number of small business owners who turn to alt lenders instead of banks and credit unions is growing. If financial institutions want to preserve and grow their SMB lending business, they will need to revisit two aspects of their loan origination strategy.

Small business borrowers deserve a better experience
Slow and complex loan application processes at many financial institutions frustrate small business borrowers. On average, an application for a small business loan takes two to four weeks. By the time borrowers submit an application, they have already spent an average of 26 hours researching capital options. Once borrowers decide they are ready to apply for a loan, they do not want to spend weeks waiting to receive their funding.

Many of the alternative online lenders charge much higher interest rates than banks and credit unions, yet, business borrowers short on time are increasingly willing to pay more in fees or interest rates to fix their cash flow problem.

Additionally, the difficulties of traveling to a branch and chasing hard copies of documents make the application process even more tedious. Improving the borrower experience is critical for banks and credit unions that want to grow their SMB portfolios.

Costly origination of SMB loans
A second challenge to growing the SMB portfolio is the cost of originating small loans. On average, the cost to originate a small business loan is almost as high as the cost to originate a much larger loan. The lower profits on smaller loans means that many banks and credit unions struggle with achieving sufficient profitability on SMB loans.

However, simply ignoring the SMB market narrows the institution’s opportunity to grow. Also, banks that already have a depository relationship with a small business may risk the entire relationship if they can’t provide a loan.

How then to increase profitability of small business lending?

First, the institution can reduce costs by making the job easier for lenders. Leveraging tools such as an online loan application, which allows borrowers to enter their information and submit documents online, saves loan officers the time of tracking down all the necessary documentation. Institutions can also reduce the time analysts spend entering data by utilizing a tool such as the Sageworks Electronic Tax Return Reader. The ETRR reads and imports data from the borrower’s tax return into the spreading software.

Another major cost of loan origination is the time spent analyzing and decisioning a loan, and automated tools can help here as well. For example, a bank that specializes in agricultural lending may be very familiar with equipment loans. This bank could see significant time savings by implementing loan decisioning software that can be tailored to its risk appetite for ag loans. The bank sets the required metrics and approval criteria, and the software provides a recommendation on the loan. This allows analysts to enter less information and make a faster decision while maintaining pre-existing credit standards.

Small business lending is an important segment for growth-minded banks and credit unions. However, frustrating borrower experiences and expensive application processes make it difficult for many institutions to build profitable SMB lending programs. By leveraging technology to improve the borrower experience and increase profitability for the institution, banks and credit unions can build a path to growth with business lending.

Making Sense of Fintech Lending Models



What type of fintech lending solution should your bank pursue? Mike Dillon of Akouba outlines what management teams and boards need to know about these lending models, and how each can benefit the bank.

  • The Three Fintech Lending Models
  • How Each Model Can Meet a Bank’s Strategic Needs
  • Benefits of Technology-Enabled Loans