Thanks to Susan Brown for this article.
Working Solutions (WS), based in San Francisco and serving the nine Bay Area counties, joined CAMEO’s Microlending Management System (MMS) last year and put their first deal through the system about eight months ago. Since then, their loan volume has grown significantly. In the year prior to using MMS, WS closed 50 deals. They are on track to double the number of deals this year, about 18 months of being fully on-board the program.
Working Solutions gets a gold star in adopting MMS, but there were some bumps in the road that they had to overcome.
“We had evolved our former loan process over many years. We liked it and we were used to it,” said Emily Gasner, WS Executive Director. “It’s not easy at first to change your process. MMS gave us a push to grow, shift and improve our systems.”
There were several elements to the change.
Integrating Software. While it doesn’t take long to learn the MMS software, it does take time to integrate it into your process. When staff first touch a deal, they naturally use the old process and tack on MMS at some point in the middle. It takes time for staff to let go of the old process and start the deal using MMS. Until then, the staff used both MMS and the legacy process. Under these circumstances, staff wonder why they are doing this extra work. WS leadership led the way, initiating conversations to eliminate the duplication and streamline using MMS.
Risk assessment. WS had historically used an interview assessment process for screening. MMS offers an automated risk assessment process, called Auto Review. It took time getting used to automating a process that was done previously by staff members. Now WS staff start with the risk assessment as the starting point after receiving an application.
Underwriting criteria. MMS is built on an underwriting grid that differed from WS’ legacy process. At first, a different take on the deals was jarring as WS staff were skilled underwriters. Again, with communication and leadership, MMS staff began to learn more about and accept MMS underwriting criteria.
Underwriting process and communications. “We were used to jumping into our own underwriting assessment as soon as we had an application,” said Agnes Cheung, WS Director of Business Lending. “It took time for us to get used to handing it over to the MMS underwriting team, rather than do it ourselves.” WS is now in the process of honing communications with the Accion Texas underwriting team to further speed up the turnaround time.
Online Application. WS recently launched their loan application online, allowing prospective borrowers to apply on their own. This will further reduce staff time on entering the application into the MMS system.
Emily and Agnes also cite CAMEO’s role as liaison, trainer and convener of peer learning calls in assisting in their transition.
Even though the adoption of MMS necessitated many organizational changes, the WS team knew it was something they had to do in light of the new wave of online lending. “Being in the Bay Area, we are in the heart of the online lending explosion,” said Emily. “We needed to automate and turn deals faster to stay competitive.”
WS is leading the way in innovation and technology adoption.