Stability is Key: How Continuity in Vendor Relationships Helps Barksdale Federal Credit Union Better Adapt to Volatility In Market Conditions
FICS Customer since 1994
"The only constant in this world is change." Work in the mortgage industry long enough and you will come to appreciate this saying. Lenders are continuously adapting to changes in the economy, new regulatory requirements, new technologies, customer preferences and hopefully, positive changes within their own organization as they grow. At times, the rate of change is more accelerated than others, but it is always present.
“The only constant in this world is change.” Work in the mortgage industry long enough and you will come to appreciate this saying. Lenders are continuously adapting to changes in the economy, new regulatory requirements, new technologies, customer preferences and hopefully, positive changes within their own organization as they grow. At times, the rate of change is more accelerated than others, but it is always present.
Having served lenders for the better part of three decades, Financial Industry Computer Systems (FICS®) has witnessed the decline and subsequent rise of the mortgage industry many times over. Many of the lenders working with FICS have been loyal customers for ten or more years. As the mortgage industry continues to navigate the challenges of the current lending environment, we are reminded of the importance of our long-term relationships and the stability that they provide to our customers.
In considering how these relationships are made and maintained throughout the years, FICS’ successful relationship with Barksdale Federal Credit Union ($1 billion in assets) provides an insightful example of how long-term relationships benefit lenders. Innovation in developing a constantly evolving product, paired with personal service and a partnership approach to building services that best fit our customer’s needs, have been the keys to working with the Barksdale, La.-based credit union for more than 17 years.
Evolving Products and Innovation Keep Vendors Relevant
Barksdale FCU is the largest credit union in the state, serving more than 1,000 companies, associations and churches. When it comes to the technology behind its loan operations, Barksdale FCU has depended on FICS since 1994. When asked why they have remained loyal to the same vendor for so many years, Cordieann Bright, vice president of Mortgage Lending, cited reliable loan origination software that is not only user-friendly, but also consistently drives efficiency within their loan production pipeline and ensures they remain up-to-date on critical regulatory changes within the industry.
“Our loan origination software is incredibly easy to use and allows for a seamless transfer of data into our mortgage servicing system, eliminating duplicate entry and improving the integrity of the loan data,” Bright said.
While all lenders are subject to regulatory review, Barksdale FCU must adhere to an additional set of reporting and exam requirements because they service a portfolio of more than $1 billion.
Regulatory changes are frequent, and the credit union must successfully implement new changes within a short window of time in order to remain compliant. This, in particular, has been a key reason that Barksdale FCU has remained such a loyal customer. According to Bright, one of the primary factors in their long-term success with their LOS vendor is that the company is always ahead of the curve with new regulations and in doing so, helps ensure that the credit union is as well.
“When the GFE regulations were released, our internal compliance staff was concerned that there was not enough time to implement the new procedures,” Bright explained. “Our loan origination software vendor was able to work on implementing these changes with our documents and presented them to us well in advance of the deadline. Sending these regulatory updates reassured us that they were on the ball, and reduced the time and energy we had to spend researching and preparing for the changes.”
Personal Service Creates Lifelong Relationships
Just having a product that works is not enough. The “day in and day out” experience that a lender has with their vendor will ultimately determine their long-term satisfaction. This includes each touchpoint experienced over time between the vendor and lender, including customer service, training, user’s conferences or internal sales calls.
More than anything, lenders need to know that they are well cared for by their vendor. No one wants to be just another number in the customer service queue. Vendors must find ways to ensure that their customers receive the help that they need, when they need it.
Bright agreed that exceptional service is one of the top three factors that has kept Barksdale FCU with the same vendor for more than a decade. She explained that every time her staff calls customer support, they are helped immediately. Even more importantly, she added that the vendor support team always takes the necessary time to make sure that Barksdale FCU’s issue is resolved and that they are completely satisfied.
“The level of service our loan origination software vendor provides proves that they truly care about our success,” said Bright. “We once had an error that required major attention. Even though the error was a result of our actions, the customer support team was dedicated to helping us correct it. That, more than anything for me, demonstrates the level of care and service that our vendor provides.”
Partnership Approach to Solving Industry Issues Maintains Relationships
The final piece necessary to ensure long-term relationships is in treating users as partners, not just as customers. Partnerships are built when lenders see and know the people and passion behind the vendor’s software.
Bright cited Fannie Mae’s upcoming changes to the guidelines for their Loan Quality Initiative as a perfect example of their vendor partnership. These updates will require major data collection and recording changes for any lender selling loans to the government-sponsored enterprise. Bright said that their vendor had already implemented the updates needed to make certain that the credit union would be ready to use the standards ahead of the deadline.
“When our IT staff heard about the future changes, they were scrambling to figure out how we would be able to incorporate them into our software systems,” Bright said. “Then we learned of, and were shown a preview of changes to our loan origination software that were already being implemented and included the new Fannie Mae changes.
Notice what is not mentioned here? Price. While all lenders want to pay as little as they can for quality software, the true long-term value of an LOS, or any piece of lending software, is the ability to eliminate obstacles and reduce operational headaches.
Bright agrees that having a high quality product, high quality support and a partnership with their LOS vendor validates the price and qualifies the value.
“Our LOS vendor provides a very high quality product at a very workable price,” Bright said. “Accounting for the time and effort the software has saved us over the years in preparing for changes in the industry, along with a true partnership we have built with the vendor; the software has essentially paid for itself many times over.”
Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Financial Industry Computer Systems, Inc. (FICS), specializes in providing flexible, comprehensive residential and commercial technology solutions to the mortgage industry. FICS' systems are designed for Microsoft® Windows® with the most recent solutions using .NET framework that include a rich Windows® Presentation Foundation user interface and multi-tiered shareable services. The company also provides innovative document management and web-based capabilities into its full suite of products. Additional information about FICS is available via the company's website at www.FICS.com.