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High-Tech, High-Touch Loans

It’s time to streamline small-business lending.

By Michael Scheibach, Contributing Editor

A small-business owner needs a loan. This requires a visit to the bank during business hours to meet with a loan officer and complete a paper-based loan application form. Before being approved, however, the application must be reviewed, which might take a day or more. Rather than wait, the owner decides to pursue an alternative lender that offers faster loan processing — even though the terms are not as attractive as the bank’s.

Does this scenario reflect your bank? If it does, you may be in jeopardy of losing small-business customers seeking faster and more-efficient loan solutions. A study by Moody’s Analytics, “The Future of Small Business Lending,” found that although small-business loans represent one-fourth of the nation’s lending volume, most banks are still using antiquated systems and practices. At the same time, according to the study, small businesses want easier access to loans in the face of shrinking funding and lukewarm response from banks.

Trevor Dryer, co-founder and CEO of Mirador (www.miradortech.com), agrees, with one important caveat: the human touch remains important to small businesses. “People want simple banking transactions to be fast and easy, and technology enables that,” says Dryer. “For more complex banking decisions, like getting a small-business loan, you may need more guidance from a human. Customers want and expect their bank to know them already and provide a level of high-touch, relationship-based advice when they really need it.”

If a bank is concerned about the complexities of offering more streamlined lending, Dryer points out that his company’s platform can be deployed in as little as four weeks. This is made possible with pre-built integration interfaces to expedite the deployment process because each bank customer’s situation is different. Training also is provided to suit the bank’s needs.

Dryer cites the platform’s recent implementation at Umpqua Bank, based in Portland, Ore., as an example. Umpqua’s new SBA online portal allows a borrower to select the type of loan needed, complete a profile and fill in the online loan application. All information and documents provided are digitized and archived with that person’s profile and are available both to the customer and to the bank.

According to Joel Carey, Umpqua’s senior vice president, SBA sales, SBA Lending, the portal has helped the bank reach customers that might have been missed without a more streamlined way to handle smaller SBA requests. And, he says, “Customers love the experience.”

Dryer believes there should never be a reason a small business looks beyond its own bank to obtain capital. The key is having a solution that makes applying for a loan a fast, secure and omnichannel experience that benefits both the borrower and the lender. Mirador’s lending platform, for example, enables banks to decline or accept certain applications instantly based on criteria the banks specify. An online loan application takes less than 10 minutes, compared to the 30-plus hours necessary to complete the traditional process. The goal is to enable lenders to profitably decision loans in 24 hours or less.

In another move designed to enhance its mission of helping banks and small businesses, the company recently launched the Mirador Network, a digital lending marketplace enabling small-business member organizations to provide pre-qualified loan options from financial institutions selected and vetted by the company. The network also allows banks to retain a customer’s main deposit account while still offering accessible small-business credit.

“Digital transformation is about making banking more customer-focused: more available when customers need it and more accessible where customers do their business and live their lives,” Dryer says. “Our long-term goal is to empower traditional lenders to help small businesses grow and local communities and economies thrive.”

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