We Need To Talk (To The Member)

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Technology may be driving much of the decision making in lending but it would serve credit unions well if lenders got back to an old-fashioned strategy: a conversation with the member.

"Many lenders are becoming computerized order takers and they need to rediscover the art of conversation," observed Dave Schurman, CUNA Mutual Group vice president, Lending Solutions Group national sales. Schurman was part of a panel discussion during CUNA Mutual's Discovery Conference. "You don't do a diagnosis without a complete conversation. You have to talk with the member to uncover their needs."

Panel members said credit unions spend a lot of money in marketing and advertising just to get a member to walk in the door, and you don't want them walking out five minutes later with missed opportunities.

Panelists included Schurman; Bob Hoefer, CEO, Dupaco Community Credit Union, Dubuque, Iowa; Mark Everson, executive vice president, Wings Financial FCU in Apple Valley, Minn., and Dave McCarron, CUNA Mutual Group regional vice president, North Central lending.

"Lending success rests upon the coach's shoulders and senior leadership's personal commitment is not only critical, but required," said Hoefer. "Lenders need to know their actions lead to a credit union's bottom line."

Everson said membership has to be retrained as well or the member may not enjoy the lending experience. "In the past, it was how quick and how soon? Now we are taking time to ask more questions and the member is asking 'why is it taking longer?'"

The panelists stressed the importance of getting the right information at the right time. It's not enough, for example, to find out if a member has children-you also need to know their ages, if college might be in their future, etc.

"By asking key questions at key points, lenders will uncover additional opportunities for products like mortgages, credit card sales, estate planning, life insurance, retirement planning and more," said McCarron. "If you rely only on your technology and give the member only what they ask for, then why do they need to speak to a lender at all? Our true value comes from always looking to do more for our members!"

The lending experts noted the importance of the five "C's" of lending:

* Character-The member's integrity, trustworthiness and quality references.

* Capacity-The ability to repay the loan.

* Collateral-The security or property pledged against the loan.

* Credit-The member's payment history.

* Capital-The member's net worth or the personal dollars invested.

But lenders shouldn't underestimate the importance of a sixth "C"-common sense.

Schurman said technology will keep improving but, "Don't let technology be how you lend. Listen to your member and learn about their lifestyle."

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