The biggest risks in lending aren't defaults - they're the loans you lose to competitors.

Three ways credit unions can boost loans in weird times

Everything is downside-up and frontwards-back right now, and probably will be for a while. Still, life goes on for your members and CU marketers need to do their part to keep interest income flowing and make sure the lights stay on.

And what we’re hearing from our credit union clients lately is loud and clear: more loans, lending, loans again, and while we’re at it how about some more lending? Deposits are up at many CUs as worried members seek safety, so lending growth is a top priority.

Here are three free ideas for ways credit union marketers can make sure that loan stew keeps cooking.

1) Stop tolerating crappy apps

To be blunt, it’s 2020 and far too many CUs are still getting in their own way with their loan application process. The ideal is a 24/7 online app that members can fill out using a phone in five minutes without wearing out their thumbs, then receive a decision instantly.

Of course, making things that simple for your members is pretty complicated for the credit union, and may be far off for some. If you’re still shuffling dead tree slices with 50 nosy questions, you can’t switch gears overnight.

But wherever you are on this journey, there are some quick wins you can put into place fairly quickly. For example, we’ve seen success with “Loan Request” forms on a website, where members can get the ball rolling by answering four or five simple questions about what they want to do. Then a loan officer can get in touch and complete the process with the member over the phone or remotely.

Similarly, if your policies still require a “wet” signature (you know, actual ink on a slice of dead tree) it’s time to implement e-signatures ASAP, PDQ, and yesterday. There are several good, quick, and secure solutions out there.

Look for all these time-wasting bits of sludge and get them out of the way, even if it means more work for the credit union. And yes, the member experience really is marketing’s responsibility. The biggest risks in lending aren’t defaults; they’re the loans you lose to competitors.

2) Communicate flexibility

Some of your members are dealing with income loss and other financial challenges for the first time. And everyone is dealing with uncertainty.

Of course, CUs are famous for figuring out ways to serve people in challenging times. So you have to find ways to get that message across clearly, now more than ever. It ain’t about your rates. (And it never was, really…)

The biggest obstacle to lending is fear of rejection. What can you do to reduce fear, communicate transparency, humanity, compassion, and confidence, and open these difficult discussions with members? You’re there to help members reach their goals. Wear your heart on your virtual sleeves and show how you care.

For example, one of the biggest and best-kept secrets at most CUs is risk-based lending. Stop keeping it a secret! Sure, you have to charge a bit more for a car loan for someone with a few dents in their credit, but they’re still going to get a far better deal than elsewhere. These are among your most compelling success stories and testimonials.

Similarly, topics like debt consolidation, credit cleanup, and secured loans and credit cards are going to be very hot for a while. How can you invite worried members to get in touch and let you help them start rebuilding?

3) Historic lows equal historic opportunity

Sure, it ain’t about your rates. But sometimes it is. Lots of CUs are seeing a surge in refinances; it’s a perfect time to poach some loans from the competition, since everyone is interested in lowering their monthly expenses.

It’s also a perfect time for a related message, something like “hey, use our money!” Even for those relatively well-off, it can make a lot of sense and feel far safer to borrow for purchases rather than use liquid funds.

Loans are still out there

With a few tweaks to your processes and messages, you can still gather plenty of wild loans from the forests of uncertainty. Fortunately, weird times are exactly what credit unions are made for.

Brian Wringer

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