A Buyers Guide to Small Business Lending Software


lending-8-7-17.pngIs digitizing your small business lending a priority for your bank? Increased efficiency, profitability, productivity and enhanced customer experience are all reasons why it should be. 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. Wouldn’t it be great to free up your team to focus on the most important thing—the customer—and let the technology take of the rest?

Here are nine questions to ask when you start talking to fintech companies that sell small business lending software:

  1. Is the software able to conform to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and best practices? According to the American Bankers Association there have been over 244 federal lawsuits since 2015 that have been filed alleging that people with disabilities are denied access to online goods and services in violation of ADA. The Department of Justice, the agency charged with ADA enforcement, has delayed website accessibility regulations until 2018, but can your bank really afford to wait?
  2. Does it improve the borrower and banker experience? It’s not enough to digitize your applications. What your small business lending software must do is improve your current process for everyone by offering a well thought-out and well-designed user experience that’s intuitive, reduces end-to-end time and helps increase profits.
  3. Will it use your bank’s credit policy? Black box credit policies should be a thing of the past but they still show up in loan origination software. Find a technology that respects the bank’s risk profile and reflects its credit criteria and corporate values.
  4. Does it offer an omnichannel application and borrower portal? Borrowers want the ability to start and finish an application on your website any time of day or night, either on their own or with the help of their banker. Look for a technology that doesn’t eliminate the banker-client relationship, but rather, enhances it.
  5. How quickly will it fit in with your current workflow? The goal should be a quick and seamless transition from paper to digital, but sometimes there isn’t a straight line. Perhaps your financial institution desires the ability to digitize the application process but still wants to manually control the underwriting and spreading process. Look for a platform that has the ability to grow with your workflow and is designed in a way that accommodates your approach to using technology.
  6. Are they a partner or a competitor? More and more alternative lenders are starting to see a benefit in partnering with banks. But will you find out later that your ‘partner’ is competing in your own back yard for the same loans you are trying to acquire through them. Find a platform that’s in the business of helping banks, not replacing them.
  7. Does the platform provide actionable analytics? The platform’s analytics must be able to provide banks with insight into their loan program that is almost impossible to track manually. Find a platform that truly maximizes the data collected by, or generated from, the technology to provide rich analytics like pipeline management, process tracking, customer experience feedback and exception tracking. This will enable managers to manage better, sales people to sell more effectively and customers to be more fully served.
  8. What are the fraud detection and prevention resources used to keep you and your customers safe? As your bank offers more digital options, criminals will devise more sophisticated and hard-to-detect fraud methods. Your bank should only seek a technology partner that has security at the top of its priority list.
  9. Will it be easier for borrowers to complete applications, and for bankers to decide on and process applications accurately and efficiently? The goal for most banks wanting to implement a small business loan origination platform is to reduce end-to-end time, increase profits and give both customers and its own staff a better experience. Make sure the software is designed with this in mind. It should be simple and intuitive for perspective borrowers to use, and it should lessen the time bankers have to touch the loan, freeing up both front and back office teams to maximize their productivity.

Your institution is unique, so you’ll need to find a technology partner that celebrates that individuality rather than changes it. Use these questions as a foundation from which you can fully explore all of your options and find the partner that will bring you the most value.

Online Lenders: Finding the Right Dance Partner


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An increasing number of banks are conceding that innovations introduced by online lenders are here to stay, particularly the seamless, fully digital customer experience. Also, online upstarts have grown to understand that unseating the incumbents may well be heavy-going, not the least because of the difficulties of profitably acquiring borrowers. The result is that both sides have opened up to the potential for partnership, viewing one another’s competitive advantages as synergistically linked. We see five types of partnership emerging.

1) Buying loans originated on an alternative lender’s platform
In this option, alternative lenders securitize loans originated on their platform to free up capital to make more loans while removing risk from their balance sheets. Banks then purchase these securitized loans as a way to diversify investments. This type of partnership is among the most prolific in the online small business lending world, with banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and SunTrust buying assets from leading online lenders. The benefits of this option include the ability to delineate the type of assets the bank wants to be exposed to, and potential for a new source of balance sheet growth. However, the downside include may include the difficulty of assessing risk, as alternative lenders are less likely to share details of proprietary underwriting technology. Moreover, the lack of historical data on alternative lenders’ performance means limited access to data on how these investments will fare in a downturn.

2) Routing declined loan applicants to an alternative lender or to an online credit marketplace
Banks decline the majority of customers who apply for a loan. This partnership option allows such banks to find a home for these loans by referring declined borrowers directly to an online lender or credit marketplace like Fundera, which may be more capable of approving the borrower in question. The advantages of this approach include the ability of the bank to provide their customers with access to a wider suite of products through a vetted solution, a reduced need to expand the bank’s credit box and increased revenue in the form of referral fees. Examples of this type of partnership are few and far between in the United States. Thus far, OnDeck has partnerships of this nature with BBVA and Opus Bank. In our view, a big reason why more banks haven’t followed suit is the loss of control over a borrower’s experience, since agreements typically require a full customer handoff to the alternative lender. In addition, regulators have become increasingly reticent to endorse such agreements, with guidance from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. being particularly restrictive.

3) Making the bank’s small business product line available through an online marketplace
Marketplace players, like Fundera, aim to empower borrowers with the tools needed to shop and compare multiple credit products from a curated network of reputable bank and non-bank lenders. They can be natural partners for traditional banks, as they can be lender agnostic, offering banks an opportunity to compete head-to-head with online lenders to acquire customers. Banks can choose to make any and all of their small business product lines (e.g. term loans, SBA loans, lines of credit, credit cards) available. Examples of this include partnerships with Celtic Bank, LiveOak and Direct Capital (a division of CIT Bank) currently have with Fundera. This option allows a bank to explore digital distribution of products within their lending portfolio, as well as the opportunity to acquire a high-intent, fully packaged borrower that comes from outside the bank’s existing footprint. In addition, this option enables banks to offer products only to the customers which meet eligibility criteria set by the bank (e.g., industry, state, credit box). The downsides of this option can be the upfront investment in technology required by banks to integrate with a marketplace lender.

4) Utilizing an alternative lender’s technology to power an online application
In this option, the alternative lender or lending-as-a-service provider powers a digital application, collecting all the application information and documentation that a bank requires to underwrite a small business loan. Capital, however, is still deployed by the bank. Examples of this partnership type include the collaboration between lending solutions provider Fundation and Regions Bank. This improves the usability of a traditional lender’s products by giving business owners the flexibility to apply online. This partnership also provides access to technology that is difficult and costly for a bank to develop. It may also reduce dependency on paper documents while reducing time to complete a loan application. The downsides of this option are that it can require deployment of significant resources for compliance and due diligence.

5) Utilizing an alternative lender’s technology to power an online application, loan underwriting and servicing
In addition to powering a digital application, the alternative lender can provide access to its proprietary technology for pricing, underwriting and servicing. As with option four, however, capital is still deployed by the bank. The example that comes closest to this type of partnership is the partnership between OnDeck and JPMorgan Chase. This option gives a bank access to underwriting technology that may be costly for them to develop on its own. By leveraging this technology, the bank may also be able to address segments of the market that would have been deemed uncreditworthy by its existing, more conventional underwriting process. Banks should only move forward with this option if they trust an alternative lender’s underwriting criteria, and the bank believes that the alternative lender can meet their compliance requirements.

Giving Small Business Borrowers ’True’ Credit


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Small business owners and entrepreneurs are the engine that fuel the global economy. Lending to small businesses has been the heartbeat of the over 5,500 community banks, and it’s also how many of the nations largest banks have prospered.

Yet the market for these loans has become commoditized—or as highly accomplished venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has said, have been “eaten by software.”Why? Because banks still treat small businesses and entrepreneurs like they are individuals applying for a personal loan and not a commercial entity with real economic value.

The problem is the current business data and credit scoring infrastructure that most banks use to underwrite loans was not made for the entrepreneur. It was made for the consumer and does not acknowledge the value of the actual business itself to the entrepreneur.

When entrepreneurs go to a bank for a loan, they are always asked two questions.

What is their credit score?

What is their current income or salary?

Simple credit scoring and current income verification is not enough as it does not fully value the entrepreneur and the businesses’ capacity.

Seventy percent of a business owner’s net worth is tied up in their business, but few banks look at anything beyond the value of the real estate, their credit score and their current income. Sixty-seven percent of all private companies are funded at levels that are actually less than they should be because the value of the underlying business has historically been overlooked.

This traditional approach to small business lending is out of date. Today, because of technology and an infinite amount of data, business owners can plug in information about their company and match it against similar businesses to find out what their business is worth, and then leverage that data for loans, insurance coverage or other financial planning matters. Banks like Univest Corp., insurance companies like Penn Mutual and credit bureaus like Equifax and Experian are starting to use and offer online databases to measure a business’ value not just for loans, but for financial planning and risk scoring.

If you are bank, take advantage of new advancements in big data and apply them to your actual core business. Focus your efforts on what used to be your bread-and-butter customer—the small business owner. But be aware that today’s entrepreneurs know that the lending process has now become democratized and they are only a browser away from a better deal. Change the game. Go further. Inspire the next great wave in lending by giving entrepreneurs and small business owners true credit.