COVID-19 emboldens credit unions to take larger strides on contactless lending journey
Analysts are busy making all sorts of predictions about how the coronavirus pandemic may change the way humans behave, the things we value, and the types of activities we enjoy. Their forecasts range from the obvious (e.g., more companies will reconsider remote working policies) to the provocative (e.g., robots, rather than humans, will take vitals in a healthcare system).
One prediction that really resonated with our team is the idea of the investor mindset shift. As one startup CEO surmised, venture capitalists will look less at revenue and funding rounds, more at things like culture and flexibility, which can sustain a young, scaling business through market fluctuations and unforeseen circumstances.
The analyst and startup communities are far from the only ones pondering change. The credit unions we talk with on a daily basis are beginning to think about the longer-tail impact of COVID-19, too. After weeks of hustle and bustle to maintain the mission critical areas of their cooperatives, credit union executives are likely able to exhale long enough to consider what’s next.
To be sure, credit union leaders are still very much in the throes of COVID-19 navigation. They also have a fair amount of qualitative and quantitative data from the past several weeks providing insight into member behavior, preferences, and needs. All of this is igniting their strategic fires and exciting them about further investigating the big questions about the future of the movement and the members it serves.
We work primarily with lending teams, and the big questions they are facing hover around the borrower experience. Well before the pandemic crisis, local lenders were already struggling to compete with megabanks and fintechs that were beginning to offer faster, simpler engagements for homeowners and homebuyers. As COVID-19 created further complexities, the playing field became even less level.
But, here’s the thing about community lenders, credit unions in particular: They have a completely different way of looking at challenges. Whereas a megabank or big tech firm sees challenges as a threat to the bottom line or a potential disappointment to shareholders, credit unions see them as an impediment to a person’s, a family’s or a business’s financial success. When you’re driven by this kind of a value system, you can move mountains.
It’s exactly what we’ve seen happen with the credit unions in our ecosystem the past few weeks. They did not allow quarantining, social distancing, or business closures to stop them from seeing member loans through to closing. They moved mountains. They pulled together their providers, mobilized their IT teams, lobbied their legislators – all to accelerate the legalization of contactless lending. I’m talking specifically about remote online notarization (RON). Since March, we have worked alongside some of the most progressive and people-centric credit unions in Iowa to execute the state’s first-ever RON to close a mortgage loan. It has been a harrowing, busy, and exciting experience, one of the greatest our company has experienced since its founding in 2015.
All of this brings me to my post-COVID-19 prediction. Over the next year, maybe less, contactless lending will evolve from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a core expectation among borrowers. Digital technology has drastically changed daily life for nearly every person today, and with rare exception, it’s improved daily life. Technology hold-outs who have been “forced” to adopt new tools to cope with COVID-19 stresses are, often to their great surprise, loving the outcomes. All of the fears and objections which kept both credit unions and members from taking larger strides on their respective digital banking journeys have evaporated. Sure, there have been stumbles and hiccups; new technology has a way of generating them. But, given the right support and encouragement, both members and the cooperatives who support them will overcome them because they’ve seen the value of technology.
Lots of things will change in a post-pandemic world, but many will stay the same. Credit unions will become braver and more intentional about adopting technology. Yet, the reason they’ll pursue digital maturity with newly dogged determination will be rooted in the unwavering tradition of people helping people.