Commercial borrowers are some of the most valuable customers within community financial institutions, which is why so many of these institutions serve the commercial segment with a very hands-on approach. Commercial lending can also be one of the most manual processes across an institution, as bankers worry that digitizing processes could result in a dilution of loyalty and loss of personal relationships.
But there is good news for bankers: they can have the best of both worlds if the right approach is taken.
When the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was announced, financial institutions had to quickly and efficiently provide small businesses with the funding they needed to keep their doors open. The most effective way to do this was to leverage technology, enabling the large volume of loans to be processed with greater efficiency and speed. Many banks have learned that it is possible to still provide personal and meaningful service through digital experiences.
Paper-intensive processes can burden both the borrower and the lender. Many lenders today spend around 30% of their time tracking down documents and asking customers for information they may already have access to, such as personal financial statements. The time spent on these tasks could be better used on more meaningful conversations around business strategy and growth.
Embracing more widespread digitization for commercial and SBA loans empowers banks to boost efficiencies and more effectively engage in cross-sell opportunities. Take tax returns, a traditionally cumbersome process, for example. By digitizing the process, the customer could be notified and documentation automatically sent to lenders, providing transparency into the customer’s cash flow and holistic business relationship.
As a result, the lender can dedicate meetings to discussing the state of their finances, not tracking down and filling out documents. Another equally important benefit: Approaching digitization the right way can help lenders facilitate personal experiences at scale.
Business borrowers have shown that they don’t mind a more digital approach to service when it means increased convenience and speed. In fact, a lot of community banks lose smaller business clients to automated online lending companies with high rates simply because doing so can be fast and easy for the borrower. A digital-first approach gives business owners precious minutes back in their day and helps improve communication outside of business hours.
Moving forward, institutions that hope to stay relevant will migrate more aspects of the commercial lending process to digital platforms, allowing lenders more time to focus on the most important part of their job: building personal and meaningful relationships with high value individuals. Personalized, frictionless experiences are needed for any service provider to successfully attract and retain customers.
Community financial institutions stand out in the financial services industry because of their customer relationships and individualized communication. That has not changed, but it is no longer enough with the increased digital expectations of customers. It is now expected for bankers to provide a seamless digital experience while still showing that they know and understand their commercial borrowers as well as their business goals and needs. Fortunately, both can be achieved for all community financial institutions by leveraging the right tools.
Long gone are the days when bankers must choose between human connection and efficiencies. Personal service can happen digitally and at scale.
Every piece of technology an institution adopts is a chance to remove a barrier for current customers and help attract new ones. Even though competitors may be fast, they will often struggle with relationships. The right combination of speed and personal relationships will enable community financial institutions to differentiate and succeed moving forward.
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