How Spreadsheets Add Risk to Construction Lending


lending-4-11-19.pngMillennials are entering the housing market with a force, yet low inventory across the country is stalling their dreams of homeownership. Now is the time for lenders to either begin or ramp up their construction loan programs. These niche loan products are a great addition to any book of business, but to be successful you have to be able to manage and service the loan after it closes.

Post close actions have traditionally been done with spreadsheets. This method, while fairly understood, is actually limiting and prone to formula errors. Additionally, spreadsheets naturally reach a tipping point in a team’s ability to scale and share reportable data with management and others in the organization. This puts loan completion in jeopardy and creates more risk to the lender.

The Limits of Spreadsheets to Manage Construction Lending
Spreadsheets can only do what they are designed to do—no more and no less. As your program grows, you are bound to reach the point where a spreadsheet is no longer functionally efficient and becomes a risky way to manage your pipeline.

  • Limited Visibility Into the Life of the Loan: Each loan has many different data points and touches over time, and housing them in a spreadsheet is basically burying important and vital information every time the loan is touched. It’s nearly impossible to see history, anticipate the future—and most importantly, clearly see problems before they arise. Spreadsheets force a reactive instead of a proactive method, which means a lender who is using spreadsheets is always playing catch-up.
  • No Reporting: Can you open up the spreadsheet right now and easily and accurately report on the pipeline, draw reports or consultant reports? The answer is probably no. And what do you do when you need to produce 1098 or 1099 reports? How do spreadsheets support these requirements? Getting your 1098s or 1099s from spreadsheets is a tedious, manual process prone to error. If you have a good quantity of construction loans, this is a large undertaking, and is difficult to scale. As you consider spreadsheets, consider the additional work that those spreadsheets will cost you over time.
  • A Finite Number Of Loans One Person Can Manage: Spreadsheets require a lot of time to properly manage one loan, and we have found that dedicated and experienced construction loan administrators can typically manage 35 to 50 loans using spreadsheets at one time. Any more than this usually adds to poor customer service.
  • Drains In-house Resources: If your program is doing well and your origination volume is growing, team members are limited in scale before a new hire must be acquired to take on more loans. Throwing bodies at the problem is not the best solution.
  • Location, Location, Location: Spreadsheets, no matter if they are stored on the cloud or on desktops, are still accessed by individual devices. You are now limited to these single failure points. What are the implications of losing this data, or the individual that knows how it works?
  • No Tracking: A spreadsheet does not offer tracking, task automation, complaint management, event monitoring, risk analysis and draw validations to ensure that the loan is meeting all of its milestones and risk requirements. As a workaround, lenders turn to the sticky note to help them keep track of important dates and actions. We all know the ineffective nature of this system, especially as key factors such as deadlines for draws, inspections, liens or permit expirations often get lost in the sticky note shuffle.
  • No Compliance Monitoring: Spreadsheets cannot keep you in compliance with government regulations, state statutes, loan program requirements, internal compliance, in-house policies/procedures or industry best practices. In order to maintain strict compliance, spreadsheets require constant vigilance. This may be their biggest limitation.

If Not Spreadsheets, Then What?
Spreadsheets just don’t cut it for construction loan management. Lenders who want to increase revenue while adding fewer additional resources need a digital construction loan management solution. Digital solutions reduce risk, improve efficiencies, allow scale and provide a better customer experience. Not to mention it keeps track of every small, yet critical, part of the construction loan. Never again will you be questioning if you are over-dispersing funds. Digital solutions, especially those that are cloud-based, can alleviate all the limitations of spreadsheets and the tipping point will be a thing of the past. Once you are running on this new level, you can bring more revenue and smart growth to your organization.

Applying the 1-10-100 Rule to Loan Management


data-4-2-19.pngImplementing new software may seem like an expensive and time-consuming challenge, so many financial institutions make do with legacy systems and workflows rather than investing in robust, modern technology solutions aimed at reducing operating expenses and increasing revenue. Unfortunately, banks stand to lose much more in both time and resources by continuing to use outdated systems, and the resultant data entry errors put institutions at risk.

The Scary Truth about Data Entry Errors
You might be surprised by the error rates associated with manual data entry. The National Center for Biotechnology Information evaluated over 20,000 individual pieces of data to examine the number of errors generated from manually entering data into a spreadsheet. The study, published in 2008, revealed that the error rates reached upwards of 650 errors out of 10,000 entries—a 6.5 percent error rate.

Calculating 6.5 percent of a total loan portfolio—$65,000 of $1 million, for example—produces an arbitrary number. To truly understand the potential risk of human data entry error, one must be able to estimate the true cost of each error. Solely quantifying data entry error rates is meaningless without assigning a value to each error.

The 1-10-100 Rule is one way to determine the true value of these errors.

The rule is outlined in the book “Making Quality Work: A Leadership Guide for the Results-Driven Manager,” by George Labovitz, Y.S. Chang and Victor Rosansky. They posit that the cost of every single data entry error increases exponentially at subsequent stages of a business’s process.

For example, if a worker at a communications company incorrectly enters a potential customer’s address, the initial error might cost only one dollar in postage for a wrongly-addressed mailer. If that error is not corrected at the next stage—when the customer signs up for services—the 1-10-100 Rule would predict a loss of $10. If the address remains uncorrected in the third step—the first billing cycle, perhaps—the 1-10-100 Rule would predict a loss of $100. After the next step in this progression, the company would lose another $1,000 due to the initial data entry error.

This example considers only one error in data entry, not the multitude that doubtlessly occur each day in companies that rely heavily on humans to enter data into systems.

In lending, data entry goes far beyond typos in customers’ contact information and can include potentially serious mistakes in vital customer profile information. Data points such as social security numbers and dates of birth are necessary to document identity verification to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act. Data entry errors also lead to mistakes in loan amounts. A $10,000 loan, for example, has different implications with respect to compliance reporting, documentation, and pricing than a $100,000 loan. Even if the loan is funded correctly, a single zero incorrectly entered in a bank’s loan management system can lead to costly oversights.

Four Ways Data Entry Errors Hurt the Bottom Line
Data entry errors can be especially troublesome and costly in industries in which businesses rely heavily on data for daily operations, strategic planning, risk mitigation and decision making. In finance, determining the safety and soundness of an institution, its ability to achieve regulatory compliance, and its budget planning depend on the accuracy of data entry in its loan portfolios, account documentation, and customer information profiles. Data entry errors can harm a financial institution in several ways.

  1. Time Management. When legacy systems cannot integrate, data ends up housed in different silos, which require duplicative data entry. Siloed systems and layers of manual processes expose an institution to various opportunities for human error. The true cost of these errors on an employee’s time—in terms of wages, benefits, training, etc.—add up, making multiple data entry a hefty and unnecessary expense.
  2. Uncertain Risk Management. No matter how many stress tests you perform, it is impossible to manage the risk of a loan portfolio comprised of inaccurate data. In addition, entry errors can lead to incorrectly filed security instruments, leaving a portfolio exposed to the risk of insufficient collateral.
  3. Inaccurate Reporting. Data entry errors create unreliable loan reports, leading to missed maturities, overlooked stale-dates, canceled insurance and other potentially costly oversights.
  4. Mismanaged Compliance. Data entry errors are a major compliance risk. Whether due to inaccurately entered loan amounts, file exceptions, insurance lapses or inaccurate reporting, the penalties can be extremely costly—not only in terms of dollars but also with respect to an institution’s reputation.

Reduce Opportunities for Human Error
An institution’s risk management plan should include steps intended to mitigate the inevitable occurrence of human error. In addition to establishing systems of dual control and checks and balances, you should also implement modern technologies, tools, and procedures that eliminate redundancies within data entry processes. By doing so, you will be able to prevent mistakes from happening, rather than relying solely on a system of double-checking.