Lending 360 Upgrades Southwest Airlines FCU’s Lending Experience to First Class

by Bill Meyer

New technology systems always make at least some employees feel apprehensive. That’s understandable; most people don’t like change.

The $555 million Southwest Airlines FCU kept this in mind as it prepared to launch the Lending 360 loan origination system (LOS) two years ago. To minimize that fear, the Dallas-based credit union had its lending staff participate in testing the system before its November 2016 go-live date.

“We created templates and gave them 14 different products to test,” said Sharon Baker, SVP of Organizational Development and Operations. “We assigned two to three per week. Not only did they help with testing, they learned the system in the process.”

Lending 360 is such an intuitively designed loan origination system, Baker added, employees were only provided with a simple flow chart and received no initial training up front. And yet, she said, they were able to process loans immediately during testing.

“By the time they went into classroom training, they were able to focus on ways to optimize their use of the system,” she said. “The most common response I received from staff after the launch was ‘Is that really all I have to do?’”

Southwest Airlines FCU had been using a loan origination system, offered by its core system provider. When it was announced that the system would be sunset, the credit union decided to conduct an LOS search that included third-party vendors.

Southwest Airlines FCU had typically met or exceeded its loan growth goals, so it wasn’t only looking for a system that would boost loan production. The credit union was also seeking better lending efficiencies, more secure delivery, streamlined policies and procedures and relief from pain points caused by poor system integration.

Not only did the credit union achieve all those operational and compliance goals, it also significantly exceeded its annual consumer loan growth budget of 6%, achieving over 16% growth for the last two years. In August 2018, Southwest Airlines FCU funded $17 million from 969 applications, its highest funding month in history. That figure includes $3.3 million funded exclusively by the credit union’s Ebranch loan officer who handles online applications collected through Lending 360.

That’s pretty remarkable for a credit union with a field of membership spread across the country that’s always on the go, thanks to its primary airline sponsor.

Adding e-signatures through DocuSign was a real game changer, Baker added. Prior to transitioning to Lending 360, staff would send a secure email to members with loan documents as attachments. Members would then have to print them out, sign them, scan them and securely email them back or send them via snail mail. Making efficiencies even more challenging was that loan documents didn’t integrate with the old LOS, which required staff to do manual calculations in order to approve and process loans.

“It was a big convenience and speed issue for members,” Baker noted.

Now, with Lending 360, loan processing time has been cut down to as quickly as five minutes on average. The system’s integration with the credit union’s optical system also eliminated a full-time employee position solely dedicated to scanning docs into the LOS. That employee is now being utilized elsewhere and provides greater value to members.

Loan decisioning is also more consistent with Lending 360. Southwest Airlines FCU utilizes L360’s decision manager feature and uses auto decisioning to approve about 30% of all loans. The credit union plans to further automate the decision process by adding Lending 360’s Decision Challenger later in the year.

Lending 360’s ability to grow as the credit union grows and quickly and easily provide system updates were also important features to the credit union, Baker added.

Finally, Southwest Airlines FCU appreciates L360’s structured workflows and built-in reporting for quick management reviews. The credit union has found significantly fewer errors and increased communication among employees within the system, without having to toggle over to email for approvals.

“Our member surveys have been very positive,” Baker said. “Members have told us that the loan process is easy, our loan officers are wonderful to work with and the overall process is now painless.”

About the Author

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer is the PR and Corporate Communications Lead for CU Direct.