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ComplianceFinanceNovember 02, 2020

Enabling digital transition

At ELFA 2020 last week, Brendan Kain, eOriginal’s Director of Commercial Sales, sat down with two industry leaders to discuss how they’ve been successfully managing digital change in their organizations. Lynette Bossler is Vice President, Originations Management for GreatAmerica Financial Services and Marci Manzella is Assistant Vice President of Corporate Operations for Commercial Credit Group. The following is a summary of their discussion. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the equipment leasing industry in unprecedented ways. Pre-COVID, the equipment leasing and financing industry was focused on improving the borrower experience and maximizing capital efficiency. With the pandemic forcing social distancing, eOriginal has seen record demand for remote and contactless solutions across all industries. Of surveyed leaders, COVID-19 was the year’s second-biggest concern cited in the most recent issue of Monitor Magazine.  As business continues to be conducted remotely, leasing companies have become dependent on a proven, end-to-end digital lending process. The urgency to implement or upgrade digital services has proved vital.

Efficiency is the Driver of Change

In that same Monitor survey, one quarter of respondents indicated that “improving processes and efficiency” was an area of focus. While the pandemic has influenced business processes for both panellists, they described a desire for improved operational efficiency that began well before the 2020 pandemic.

Looking to streamline internal processes (e.g., to reduce the movement of physical paper), and increase deal processing speed with digital workflows, both panellists detailed benefits for staff and customers. “In our vendor-affiliated model, we’re thinking about the efficiencies for us, and those selling the equipment (and) our ability to help them close that sale more quickly,” said Bossler, adding “We can also make it a good experience for our team members, and that frees them up to deliver more specialized requests for customers vs. some of the transactional (paper) work that they’re doing.”

Compliance risk was another driver of digital change discussed by the panel. Manzella said, “We had a little caveat moving into the electronic Chattel world. We had a good foundation of compliance and controls prior to doing that, but as we moved forward, we needed to make sure that they would be accepted in that open market as well, because as an independent, we thrive in that market. We needed to make sure that anything we were doing in the paper world would satisfy the need in the electronic world as well.”

 Covid-19 Only Accelerated Change

Improving customer experience was the panellists’ primary concern, and the pandemic only accelerated their efforts. Remote and contactless technologies were discussed, from eSignature and eVaulting through to secondary markets.

“We actually started this [customer experience improvement efforts] in 2019, and were at the finish line when the pandemic hit,” said Manzella.

“It gave the [sales rep] an additional tool instead of taking something away from them. I think we have 99% acceptance now… It really helped them see how it could be helpful when they couldn’t see their customers face to face anymore.”

Bossler added that the pandemic helped them change their focus, and allowed them to accelerate their processes by going digital.

“We’ve had team members asking ‘Can we get this document ready to be digital?’ It really changed our focus because we’ve been focused on the front end,” she said.

“We really broadened our thinking beyond originations… We’ve been attacking it one business unit at a time and moving through the organization. The pandemic has absolutely allowed us to accelerate that … Those business units and sales reps welcome the digital process

ROI Considerations are Broad

Making the case to implement new technology typically demands some kind of formal ROI assessment. Panellists covered a wide variety of considerations from financial analysis and process efficiency, to customer service and the reduction of labour.

“When I think about any change at GreatAmerica, I need to make sure it’s good for our customers, good for our team members and good for our bottom line,” said Bossler. “It’s far more than just what’s good for the bottom line. For customers, it’s their ability to close that transaction quickly and take that deal off the street. That translates into increased equipment sales for them, as well as increased business for GreatAmerica, through to that equipment vendor.”

“We think about efficiency with our team members – that really does enhance employee engagement. Not having to print a document, get up and go to the printer, sign the document, and scan it back into an imaging system – these pieces help a team member be more engaged. You’ve really got to look at your process end-to-end if you want to get a full grasp of your return on investment.”

“Today we’re going to additional banks and they’re saying, this [eContracting] is how people are doing business today, and welcoming it with open arms.” -Lynette Bossler, GreatAmerica.

Manzella, too, lauded the efficiency and simplicity of digital processes.

“The easy [ROI justification] things are the bottom line – what are you going to save, she said. “We had an entire eChattel department that was shuffling files from drawer to drawer, place to place and them sending them offsite, getting them back, checking them out, checking them in.”

“Now, it’s as simple as uploading a spreadsheet and moving files around in an electronic vault. There’s substantial time and cost savings from that perspective.“

The panellists raised an interesting point about digital processes, arguing that instead of dehumanizing customer interaction, it has simply changed how personal interaction occurs.

“It doesn’t mean you’re losing the personal touch. It means you’re giving the personal touch in a different way,” said Bossler.

Manzella added, “one of our biggest concerns was the ability of the sales reps to keep that close-knit relationship with our customers. I can assure you that they have managed to do it and it’s worked out tremendously. I think a lot of people’s fear is that we’re going to keep getting further and further from our customers, whether your customer is the vendor or the end user. We have not experienced that at all.”

Change Requires Planning & Consensus

How can an equipment lease organization institute operational changes and complete the technical groundwork to adopt electronic document management with as little disruption to the business as possible? While one panellist is a vendor-affiliated lessor and the other an independent, their recommendations on building consensus were very similar:

  • Plan Ahead – Digital change takes time, and is easier when you’ve planned thoroughly
  • Involve a Broad Group – When assessing digital lending technology to incorporate into your workflow, ensure the right people are in the room by assembling an organization assessment team to evaluate your systems
  • Expect Objections – Plan for impact on constituent groups and address concerns of each. Identify barriers you expect to confront and plan for these challenges, both from a change-management and technology perspective
  • Document Processes – Once you’ve made the decision to phase out paper processes – or go fully digital – be sure to create a roadmap for all your processes.
  • Evaluate Current Workflow – “Now that you moved to a more digital world, it’s really important to say, ‘Do I still need this stuff? Do we need to continue that in a digital world?’ That answer might be yes, but you really do yourself a disservice if you don’t stop to ask that question,” said Bossler.

If you’d like to watch the entire panel discussion, it’s available below. To speak with a subject matter expert about implementing additional remote and contactless digital lending services for your organization, schedule a meeting here.

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