By: Ed Avis
Last year, community bank loan producers were faced with both record-low interest rates and a glut of deposits. But as they always do, they came through for individuals and businesses in their communities with a combination of personalized service and prudent risk management practices. Here, we highlight some of last year’s most successful loan producers in the areas of agriculture, commercial and consumer/mortgage lending.
Using FDIC data for 2021, we calculated a lender score out of 100 for each community bank. The score combines the average of the bank’s percentile rank for lending concentration and for loan growth over the past year in each lending category. We then adjusted each score for loan charge offs in each category at certain percentile thresholds.
CONSUMER AND MORTGAGE - Helping consumers get ahead
One of the missions of Lead Bank in Lee’s Summit, Mo., is to help consumers who have difficulty accessing the financial system, especially those who have been historically marginalized. So, when the community bank’s leadership learned of a fintech that needed a bank partner to launch a credit-building tech product, they were intrigued.
“Our CEO, Josh Rowland, went to a meeting of the Financial Health Network, an organization that helps consumers improve their financial health, and they said, ‘We should introduce you to this fintech who has this product and needs a partner,’” says Greg Bynum, president of the $738 million-asset bank.
That meeting four years ago led to the launch of Lead Bank’s Credit Builder Account program, which is accessed through an app developed by Self Financial, a fintech. Self Financial handles the technology, including access to online accounts and an app, as well as marketing aspects of the program, and Lead Bank provides the compliance and access to the banking system. It is available to consumers in all 50 states.
Why did this program help propel Lead Bank onto Independent Banker’s Top Lenders list? Because the Credit Builder Account program begins with a $1,000 loan to the consumer, which is deposited into a certificate of deposit at the community bank instead of being disbursed to the borrower. The borrower makes monthly payments over the course of 12 months. Assuming the borrower makes the payments on time, they end the year with an improved credit score and $1,000 in savings.
“In our four-year relationship with Self, we’ve helped in excess of a million consumers establish or improve their credit scores,” Bynum reports. “We’ve been really happy with it. It’s a way to help consumers get access to financial services in a financially responsible way. Some banks see fintechs as competitors, but if you can combine the strengths of the banking industry and the strengths of the fintech, it can really be a win-win.”
Two years ago, Lead Bank and Self expanded the program to include a secured credit card. Since the successful Credit Builder Account participants end the program with $1,000 in the bank, they have the cash to secure the card. More than 500,000 customers have received secured cards through the program.
Taking the lead on financial literacy
Teaching people about wise money management is a key part of the Credit Builder Account program, Bynum says. “We do a lot of financial education to help consumers know what behaviors help their credit scores. For example, if their outstanding credit card balance gets above 30% of what’s available, that tends to hurt their credit score, so we send a little notice that says they may want to pay it down.”
Self and Lead Bank will probably add more banking products in the future, but they are not rushing things.
“We’re being very methodical about what products we introduce,” Bynum says. “We’re surveying consumers about what they need; that’s how we came up with the secured credit card. It’s important for us to do it in a financially responsible way so that we’re always helping the consumer develop good financial habits and improve their credit.”