Posted by MeridianLink | June 7, 2024

Removing Friction From the Lending Experience: Insights From Fortera Credit Union on the Banking Transformed Podcast 

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In the high-stakes arena of financial services, where competition is rapidly rising, staying ahead of the curve is not just crucial—it’s the difference between thriving and falling behind. And it’s more than just being ‘digital’. In fact, customers are now measuring their financial institutions’ digital delivery of services against the practices of world-class online retailers

In this special eight-part series of the Banking Transformed podcast—recorded at MeridianLink® LIVE! and featuring MeridianLink® customers—industry leaders discuss their journeys, strategies, and lessons learned along their unique paths to digital growth.  

In this first episode, Tim Wheeler, Chief Lending Officer of Fortera Credit Union, shares how they leverage technology, challenge traditional thinking, and eliminate unnecessary friction points that not only creates a seamless, member-centric lending experience but also results in significant growth. Wheeler emphasizes the importance of data, analytics, a digital-first mindset, and the role of leadership in driving change within the organization. 

A Vision for a Digital-First Experience 

Understanding that digital evolution is an ongoing endeavor and that the financial landscape is in constant flux, Fortera adopted a proactive stance toward anticipating these shifts. Their vision was clear: to create the best, most efficient member experience. 

The journey began with MeridianLink, a strategic partner who shared Fortera’s vision. Together, they aimed to eliminate pain points that hindered borrowers from proceeding with lending transactions. This led to a comprehensive digital-first strategy, where efficiency and automation took center stage in their loan and deposit account origination experiences. 

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Change 

While the benefits are clear and the necessity inevitable, digital transformation is not without its challenges. Internally, it requires changes to how employees perform their jobs, which can be uncomfortable. Externally, Wheeler indicates the biggest challenge was eliminating barriers in the consumer-facing workflow. 

But Fortera Credit Union had a plan and partner to help! They went through a rigorous process of evaluating every step in their application workflows.  

“We took a look at what was required of the borrower to move forward with a lending transaction and what could be automated. Throughout the follow-up process, where are the delays? Are the same rules applicable to all borrowers?  

By critically analyzing these processes, they identified what could be automated and streamlined. This introspection, followed by the implementation of a comprehensive digital platform for loan and deposit account origination—MeridianLink® One—led to a process where members could quickly and easily manage their applications from their preferred devices and have clear expectations on the next steps, enhancing their overall experience. 

Achieving Efficiency and Growth 

Fortera’s commitment to a frictionless lending process has yielded impressive results. Their loan application process now takes about 5 minutes, with most loans funded within a day. Deposit applications are completed in under 5 minutes.  

This efficiency has not only improved member satisfaction but also led to a 20% increase in pre-qualified cross-sell activity!  

“Ask yourself why you are asking certain questions in the application.” Challenge the status quo. Be flexible, adapt, and evolve,” Wheeler advises. This mindset, combined with advanced technology solutions like MeridianLink One and its vast network of integration partners, has propelled Fortera toward significant growth and member retention. 

Building a Competitive, Future-Ready Model 

Fortera’s digital progress has allowed it to build a competitive model that is responsive to member needs. By leveraging data analytics and AI-enabled tools, they can offer personalized financial advice and products, support members through significant life events, and foster long-term relationships. 

“We aim to be there as a trusted source of support, offering the next best product tailored to their needs,” Wheeler explains. 

The Next Steps: Instant Funding and Beyond 

Looking ahead, Fortera is focused on further enhancing its digital experience. The next big push is toward instant funding, which will provide members with immediate access to funds upon approval.  

“Imagine applying for a credit card, getting approved, adding it to your digital wallet, and using that card within minutes of applying,” Wheeler explains. This seamless experience is what Fortera aims to deliver. 

Fortera Credit Union’s story is a testament to the power of digital progression. By embracing change, leveraging advanced technology, and focusing on member needs, they have set a benchmark for efficiency and innovation. 

Listen to the full podcast episode here: and stay tuned for the next installment of this Banking Transformed Podcast series!  

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