With on-demand services and faster decisions, digital lending platforms are changing the face of commercial lending. But digital approaches differ – and as banks transform their operations to keep up with online competitors, they need a technology-driven
approach that moves beyond speed and takes them into new, unexplored areas.
While digital disrupters have been busy slashing the time to "yes" for single loan applications, traditional banks could be missing a trick by digitizing only the simplest areas of their commercial lending business.
Leave your comfort zone
It's tempting for banks to focus purely on the business customers they definitely want – the safe bets, the solid propositions. And certainly, digital lending platforms make it quicker, easier and less costly to approve these applications, by stripping out
manual tasks and automating the whole process.
But a digital approach can go even further. Most critically, it should help underpin banks' unique selling point for business customers in general and small businesses in particular – their ability to forge relationships and offer advice and support, as
well as extend loans.
As part of the customer relationship, it's just as important for a bank to reduce its time to "no" as its time to "yes," again by digitizing the decision-making process. When you can rapidly reject applications that clearly exceed your risk appetite, you
won't leave customers waiting around – or waste unnecessary time on unwanted business.
However, the real opportunity for banks lies in their ability to accelerate the time to "maybe" and reach a previously underserved segment of small businesses.
Dig deeper to go further
Between the obvious "yes" and "no" credit applications stretches a grey area that could possibly yield a greater profit than the safe bets with their high-quality credit history.
The least sophisticated digital lending platforms are likely to reject these candidates outright when the historical numbers don't stack up. But with deeper analytical capabilities, the computer won't necessarily say "no" and will at least spot the potential
to negotiate or explore further.
Maybe the bank could make a counter offer, by adjusting its payment terms or asking for another type of collateral. Failing that, a closer look at the customer's business and industry, or the specific project it needs to fund, might shed more positive light
on the prospective deal.
Either way, a digital platform should allow you to both analyze additional information and open a one-to-one dialogue between you and the customer.
Take digital lending to the next level
Ultimately, banks can offer businesses much more than fast responses on simple loans – not only a wide range of financial services, including structured lending products, but also a profound understanding of their customers' often complex requirements.
So, it's crucial to remember that not all digital approaches to lending are the same.
Like online-only lenders, traditional banks can use technology to improve the efficiency of their processes. But to grow your commercial lending business and get more from customer relationships, you really need to go digital with depth.