Life-Cycle Lending: Talking Operational Efficiency

*Talking Operational Efficiency*
**By Harvey Foster**

***Today I want to discuss operational efficiency from three different but equally important perspectives, each with strong implications for lenders. Fiserv is pleased to offer this information to enable you to be more knowledgeable in your evaluation of adopting a common loan origination platform and the strategy’s potential in terms of the borrower experience, your staff resources and your IT/hardware costs. Here’s what you should think about:

****The Customer Perspective

****In terms of both profitability from cross-sell opportunities and enhancing the borrower experience, lenders must consider the customer-centric perspective as critical for growing the organization’s loan portfolio.

****>> The multi-platform scenario – In this scenario, a borrower currently has a mortgage loan and a boat loan with the financial institution. Because the two original loans were processed on two separate platforms, customer data is stored in two places. More often than not, the platforms do not communicate with each other, so customer data-sharing is minimal, if not impossible. Gathering loan product scenarios from multiple origination systems is extremely complex and time consuming. Each application produces its own loan product information and the lender must then try to synchronize and deliver that data in real time to the consumer for true comparison. This not only curtails the lender’s ability to serve the customer but also inhibits the ability to spot product trends and cross-sell opportunities. If the customer now needs to finance an equipment purchase for a small business, he or she may have to start from the beginning in terms of completing the application, since the system used to originate business loans cannot access data from the previous loan transactions. This results in repetitive data entry, hinders timely and wise credit decisioning and increases the possibility for errors. In addition, it limits cross-sell opportunities because there is not one true snapshot of the borrower’s total relationship with the financial institution.

****>> The single-platform scenario – In this scenario, the lender utilizes a common platform to handle all processing for the borrower’s three loan originations. Borrower information is stored on one system, eliminating the need to share data between different platforms. When the borrower comes to the lender for another loan, virtually all financial information is already available to the lender through a search capability, simplifying the origination process for both borrower and lender. Data integrity issues are eliminated, and the borrower experience is a positive one. And, as cross-sell opportunities come about, the financial institution has a holistic snapshot of the borrower’s entire portfolio so it can make the most prudent – and potentially most profitable – product offers.

****The User Perspective

****Operational efficiency is directly tied to how internal staff is able to utilize technology resources.

****>> The multi-platform scenario – For lenders utilizing different platforms for different loan products, there is no common look and feel between systems. The Consumer Loan Department may have to learn one platform for equity loans and another for mortgage loans. The user experience suffers because staff members must create “work-arounds” or use manual processes to manage all accounts. Production personnel also have to be trained on multiple systems in order to support more than one type of portfolio. Origination volume suffers because of the extra time required to work with different systems and in different departments.

****>> The single-platform scenario – One platform means one look and feel. Multiple loan products are processed from the same system, so staff is trained once and empowered to work efficiently between lending verticals. The financial institution is able to standardize processes and procedures, and staff feels more comfortable and capable of contributing across loan departments. The single-platform approach leverages operational efficiency. Business users can set up processes across channels, users, departments and products with the requisite controls and history tracking to safely implement changes, and individual users can enjoy a streamlined productivity tool. The business rules management incorporated in a common system increases flexibility by letting lenders establish security and processes according to the needs of their business, and deploy capabilities and functions according to user roles and responsibilities.

****The Technology Perspective

****Technology that separates loans into distinct functional silos can be a barrier to driving down operational, implementation and support costs. With the fierce competition in today’s lending markets, implementing an efficient software deployment strategy can mean the difference between growing the portfolio and just surviving.

****>> The multi-platform scenario – Using multiple platforms makes managing the enterprise lending operation much more complex. Each distinct platform runs on a different operating system and database. The consumer platform may run a .NET Application, Oracle Database and a Citrix Server configuration, while the commercial system runs an AIX-based Java Application, IBM DB2 Database and an Internet Explorer deployment. The mortgage system may run on a C++ platform. As a result, IT resources must be staffed to support all three hardware platforms and their existing operating system applications. Just maintaining the three diverse systems for updates, compliance/regulatory demands and ongoing integration hampers the lender’s ability to keep up with market changes and conditions. In addition, staffing, training, operational cost, processing efficiency and the overall borrower experience are adversely affected.

****>> The single-platform scenario – Having one platform typically simplifies processing automation by providing tools designed to respond to industry and business changes quickly and efficiently. Usually, system tools allow the lender to establish security and create rules to ensure process consistency. Reducing disparate technology systems and redundant interfaces creates efficiencies because the same processes are applied to all loans. For instance, when compliance initiatives require updates, it is a one-time process. All testing to verify compliance with the new requirements is also performed only once. IT staff supports one platform, one operating system, and one database. Seamless data transfer assures consistent and accurate customer data throughout the origination process, regardless of loan type.