As I reflect on my first time attending the Credit Union National Association (now America’s Credit Unions) Business Lending Roundtable (BLRT), the overarching theme of collaboration echoes in my mind. This is Vertical IQ’s second year sponsoring this event, so I knew to expect an energetic and lively group. This conference serves as a melting pot of credit union professionals, each eager and willing to share their successes and failures, all in the spirit of helping one another navigate the complex landscape of business lending. It didn’t hurt that the backdrop was in sunny Miami! Here’s a bit more about my experience at the conference.

Palm trees, a warm breeze, and more C&I, please!

One of the pivotal discussions revolved around the necessity for credit unions to focus on growing their deposits. As the heartbeat of any financial institution, deposits play a crucial role in sustaining operations and fueling growth. Many credit unions have recognized this and are actively working towards bolstering their deposit base.

The spotlight of this conversation, however, was on the journey into the realm of business lending. It was evident that many credit unions are either in the process of launching their business lending programs or have already taken the plunge. The distinction between commercial and industrial (C&I) lending and commercial real estate (CRE) lending emerged as a significant learning curve.

It’s not uncommon to witness credit unions bringing in seasoned C&I bankers to spearhead the development of their lending teams. Unfortunately there are fewer commercial bankers with industry expertise and experience on their resumes, which means that it is more crucial than ever for credit unions to ensure that they have the right resources, training mechanisms, and processes in place to provide their clients with valuable industry expertise and equip less-experienced bankers with the confidence to lend.

Riding the small business banking wave

Small businesses were hailed as an important community and member service throughout the conference. Not only do they represent a healthy source of deposits, but they also contribute to the credit union’s portfolio through smaller balance loans. Understanding the nuances of different industries, recognizing their pain points, and tailoring services to earn their trust are priorities for many credit unions, and for good reason.

A learning paradise

The sessions at CUNA’s BLRT featured incredibly insightful discussions on the biggest challenges facing credit unions.

I found “Maintaining Commercial Loan Portfolio Quality in Changing Economic Environments” by Crystal Dowd particularly interesting. In a time of fluctuating interest rates and uncertainties in the commercial real estate market, the emphasis on portfolio quality has never been more critical. The session adeptly navigated the diligence required to assess risk levels in credit union portfolios while shedding light on proper portfolio servicing and loan reviews.

Su Ning Strube and Ted Kosev with JUDI.AI presented “Setting Up and Scaling a Successful New Age Small Business Lending Program,” which dissected the key ingredients for a solid foundation in small business lending. From identifying market potential to building a credit policy aligned with risk tolerance, the session provided a roadmap for credit unions aiming to venture into this domain.

In another session, “Diversified and Innovative Lending,” led by Valerie Benson, we delved into effective risk management through portfolio diversification. The session explored avenues beyond CRE lending, including C&I lending and Small Business Administration (SBA) lending. Understanding the intricacies of SBA loans, the types available, and how they contribute to portfolio health was an eye-opener. It underscored the importance of organizations having access to this critical data, and it’s also why we’re so thrilled that Vertical IQ profiles now include SBA loan data and insights!

A better credit union member experience starts here

The CUNA Business Lending Roundtable is a catalyst for new perspectives, idea-sharing, and most importantly, a genuine and collaborative spirit that is the credit union community. Being included in these conversations is one of the reasons why this conference is now one of my all-time favorites! I’m excited to see how the lessons gleaned, particularly in embracing small businesses as integral community assets, are poised to steer the course of credit unions in the months ahead.

In order to better serve business members and expand into the C&I lending space, it is important for credit unions to be equipped with the latest, most relevant industry knowledge.

Industry Intelligence from Vertical IQ provides that “missing piece” for credit unions to enhance their success in C&I business lending across sales, underwriting, and even marketing. Industry Profile chapters such as Current Conditions, Industry Forecast, Business Valuation, and Quarterly Insights arm business bankers with timely, focused, and relevant industry information they can use to better understand clients and their industries, and forge lasting relationships with them.

For more information on how Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence can help credit unions build relationships in the C&I lending space, click here.

Image credit: Cole Teal, Vertical IQ

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