An E-Branch Success and Coping with It

When first considering e-commerce and leveraging the Internet, we considered Web-based activity as simply another delivery channel for our traditional products. A year ago we already had a Website, but we felt we needed something more or we would lose business to competitors. Thus we were playing defensively. Accordingly we added a home banking and bill payer capacity to the Website, and as well a loan application and approval capacity. We did not expect anything out of the ordinary.

 
 

When first considering e-commerce and leveraging the Internet, we considered Web-based activity as simply another delivery channel for our traditional products. A year ago we already had a Website, but we felt we needed something more or we would lose business to competitors. Thus we were playing defensively. Accordingly we added a home banking and bill payer capacity to the Website, and as well a loan application and approval capacity. We did not expect anything out of the ordinary.

What we got was not ordinary at all. Within two months we knew we had tapped into something bigger than we had thought. By the third month of the Web loan service, we were receiving nearly 30% of our total loan applications via the Internet.

We soon realized that what had started as a defensive move had developed into what amounted to a new branch serving members with a full array of products. We had never introduced a product or service that has received so many unsolicited, positive member comments. Simply put, they love it.

At this point we felt we could not stand by and do nothing; we had to put more resources into this area. Accordingly, we asked a woman in our accounting department, one who had never made a loan before but who was smart and knew the organization very well, if she would become the branch manager of this Website branch. She readily agreed to the new opportunity and career challenge. We also reassigned to her a loan officer and loan processor.

We gave these three their own area inside our offices, gave them computers and software, plus training by one of our managers who is very good at this sort of thing. The four had many meetings over the course of about a month. They really took to the work; it was sort of like starting up a business and they felt they were getting in on the ground floor, being empowered with critical responsibilities, which, of course, they were. In short, they were both working hard and having a ball.

They have since been joined by a fourth person for their branch, and they are all cross-training in each other's responsibilities. Loan applications continue to flood in. Most get approval in 45 seconds. To other applicants, we ask when they would like to have a response and we work to that, whether it be 10 minutes or a week. Note that the approval rate for applications coming in via the Web is higher than for other applications, an indication to us that the Web applicants are somewhat more organized financially than the average of our membership.

We also have an e-mail loan application that members can use, and an e-mail capability at the Website. These, too, are handled by our e-commerce branch staff. We feel that we are attracting new members and more loan activity through the new Web capacities on account of the ease of use, 24/7 accessibility and speed of response. The entire process (excluding certain processing functions ) is outsourced.

For the future, we expect to add more staff to the e-branch as the need arises. We want to make more of an effort to support and attract our out-of-state members, not by brick-and-mortar branches but by means of our e-commerce capabilities. We are already making in-roads here.

 

 

 

March 19, 2001


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