Response to “Still on the Fence”

August 7, 2009 by Guest Contributor

There are a lot of areas covered in your comment: efficiency; credit quality (human side or character in an impersonal environment); and policy adherence.

We define efficiency and effectiveness using these metrics:

• Turnaround time from application submission to decision;
• Resulting delinquencies based upon type of underwriting (centralized vs. decentralized);
• Production levels between centralized and decentralized;
• Performance of the portfolio based upon type of underwriting; and
• Turnaround time from application submission to decision

Due to the nature of Experian’s technology, we are able to capture start and stop times of the typical activities related to loan origination.  After analyzing the data from 160+ financial institutions of all sizes, Experian publishes an annual small business benchmark report that documents loan origination process efficiencies and inefficiencies, benchmarking these as industry standards.

Turnaround Time

From the benchmark report, we’ve seen that institutions that are centralized have consistently had a turnaround time that is half of those with decentralized environments.

Interestingly, turnaround time is also much faster for the larger institutions than for smaller.  This is confusing because the smaller community banks tend to promote the close relationship they have with their clients and their communities. Yet, when it comes to actually making a loan decision, it tends to take longer.

In addition to speed, another aspect of turnaround is consistency.  We all can think of situations where we were able to beat the stated turnaround times of the larger or the centralized institutions.  Unfortunately, these tend to be isolated instances versus the consistent performance that is delivered in the centralized environment.

Resulting delinquencies based upon type of underwriting/Performance of the portfolio based upon type of underwriting

Again, referring to the annual small business lending benchmark report, delinquencies in a centralized environment are 50% of those in a decentralized environment.

I have worked with a number of institutions that allow the loan officer/relationship manager to “reverse the decision” made by a centralized underwriting group.  The thinking is that the human aspect is otherwise missing in centralized underwriting.  When the data is collected, though, the incremental business/portfolio that is approved by the loan officer (who is close to the client and knows the human side) is not profitable from a credit quality perspective.  Specifically, this incremental portfolio typically has a net charge-off rate that exceeds the net interest margin — and this is before we even consider the non-interest expense incurred.

Your choice: is the incremental business critical to your success…or could you more fruitfully direct your relationship officer’s attention elsewhere?

Production levels between centralized and decentralized

Not to beat a dead horse, but the multiple of two comes into play here too.  As one looks at the throughput of each role (data entry, underwriter, relationship manager/lender), the production levels of a centralized environment are typically double that of a decentralized.

It’s clear that the data point to the efficiency and effectiveness of a centralized environment