Relationship Lending: Three reasons for Bankers to consider a CRM

By: Bess Patton, Marketing Manager, Sageworks

Many institutions share the three-pronged goal of maintaining high-quality customer service, growing loans and prospecting to grow their portfolio.

However, with the work that goes into generally managing the portfolio, sometimes these growth initiatives don’t get the attention they deserve. Spending time on repetitive internal communication, checking back on customer and loan status, and fumbling with paper documents can easily contribute to wasted time that could be poured back into efficient and proactive customer interactions and identifying new business opportunities. With the right customer relationship manager, however, financial institutions have the opportunity to vastly improve the customer experience, increase lender productivity, boost portfolio growth and create significant efficiencies throughout their organization.

Here are three key reasons why bankers consider leveraging a CRM:

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  1. Inefficient lending process. Inefficiencies in the lending processes at financial institutions can range from delayed document gathering and missing information to unnecessary data-entry. Waiting on customers to deliver documents in person to your institution can mean long delays, while emailing financial documents back and forth presents risk of data breach no customer should be exposed to. Another point of inefficiency is that bankers are often unable to obtain accurate data about their customers quickly. Having to check back on paper documents, or search for specific information from disparate data systems leads to longer wait times for customers, and wasted time for bankers.
  2. Disconnect between departments. When different teams use several different methods to document information, be it Excel spreadsheets or emails, tasks will be missed and information can get misplaced because the communications are not streamlined or centrally located. These disconnects in relationship management can lead to missed deadlines and opportunities. Furthermore, having to actively connect repetitively with other professionals at the institution to check in on where a customer relationship currently stands or where a loan in the pipeline adds to the inefficiencies of the process at large.
  3. Losing track of customers. Without a central database and a 360-degree view of the customer, cross-sale opportunities are not maximized, risky relationships are not properly monitored and the best clients are not given adequate, personalized service. It’s near impossible to actively monitor the financial status of every customer manually – so any current customer could grow in the risk they present and remain under the institution’s radar. Furthermore, clients who experience change that presents a new opportunity for the institution to extend further products might never be reached out to. This means loss of potential revenue, as well as less impressive service for members who can easily take their business elsewhere down the road.

Lending is all about relationships

Every banker knows that relationships are the most important piece in building a portfolio. Yet data entry, tracking down information and other paper-shuffling duties can reduce the time available to spend fostering, growing and retaining your customer base. By using software to supplement time-consuming data entry and organize customer data, time is opened up for the lenders to focus on what’s really important: relationships. Furthermore, the insights made available by employing a CRM will ensure time is spent on the right relationships, offering the assistance they need or opportunities they weren’t even aware were available to them. Though it might sound intuitive that a CRM allows bankers to better manage relationships, the impact of this opening in bandwidth to spend facetime with customers cannot be underestimated.

Switching to a CRM

Change can be hard but managing a sales pipeline out of an email inbox, spreadsheets or stacks of business cards is harder.  If customer information is stored disparately, it is impossible for different departments at the institution to report on up-to-date customer activity. For a management team trying to hold lenders accountable for sales activities, develop a reliable business forecast and grow the portfolio, it’s time for a strong CRM.

Implementing a new technology of this scale does require stopping and examining your processes – bringing in new technology that simply supports legacy processes could hold back progress and defeat the effort to innovate. Bringing in your employees on this process evaluation, and the following implementation, from the start will be crucial to the success of the switch. Engage them, leverage their closeness to the processes, and allow them to help drive the change through their involvement rather than resist change they feel is being imposed on them.

Another important element in switching to a CRM, or a different CRM, is helping users understand the value. Finding a CRM with a customizable interface is one element to look for in selecting a solution your lenders can more readily adjust too and be ensured serves the needs of your specific institution. Finding a solution with robust capabilities whose value is easily explained will also promote excitement around adoption rather than resistance. A purpose-built solution should allow you to pull in faster, better data that enables lenders and analysts to more effectively service their customers and report on the institutions’ lending pipeline, and make it easier to consistently build forecasts. Further, it should allow for instantaneous cross-departmental access to accurate customer data.

With a host of processes that are improved by bringing in a CRM, anchored to the necessity of serving customers well to survive and thrive in the modern banking environment, institutions can be sure that the aches of change management are well worth the pursuit of innovation that will ultimately move a bank forward.

Bess Patton is a Credit and Lending Marketing Manager at Sageworks, a financial information company that provides financial analysis and valuation applications to accounting firms.

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