Have you ever met someone and felt an instant connection? It was this kind of spark that ignited between Vertical IQ and RelPro when we first formed a strategic alliance in 2020 to benefit our mutual customers within the banking, accounting, financial advisory, and professional services sectors.

Integrating Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence and RelPro’s business intelligence and leads capabilities has been a natural fit from the start — saving sales professionals time while giving them a competitive advantage during their pre-call research and planning.

In the spirit of this collaboration, I was excited to co-host a recent webinar with RelPro customer success manager Jenny Mignarri focused on our companies’ shared credit union customers. Our discussion zeroed in on how credit unions can tap into the power of these two intelligence tools to bolster their business lending strategies.

The expansion of credit unions’ business lending

As you may know, credit unions have traditionally been focused on giving an outstanding experience to their consumer members, and that focus has worked well. In a survey of more than 72,000 Consumer Reports members, 96% of those who used a credit union said they were highly satisfied with the customer service they received there.

A few years ago, the National Credit Union Administration passed new regulations, which allow credit unions to set their own underwriting requirements and establish their own business lending policies. With this regulation shift, credit unions expanded their focus beyond consumers to include more businesses, and as a result, in 2022, commercial loans outstanding at credit unions surged about 24.5% — more than double the growth rate for loans reported by banks in that same year. Credit union’s commercial deposits have increased as well.

Of course, this increased focus on business banking and lending means that credit unions have new competitors to consider, namely community banks, larger regional banks, and other credit unions — as well as some non-bank online lenders.

So, what can credit unions do to compete with others vying for businesses’ credit needs and deposits? Sure, rates are one factor, but as we noted in the joint webinar, credit unions must find innovative new ways to carry over the outstanding consumer banking customer service they are known for to their CNI lending practices. And this is where technology tools like RelPro and Vertical IQ can be game changers.

Harnessing intelligence-focused technology tools

Jenny recounted three ways credit union customers can tap into the power of intelligence-focused technology as they seek to enter or expand their presence in the business services and lending arena.

    • For credit unions that are still in the planning phase of implementing a business services/lending team: Leverage Industry Intelligence tools like Vertical IQ to assess their market — for example, to find industries in their footprint that are more prevalent or less risky to lend to than others.
    • For those that have recently launched their business lending services or lending team: Utilize business intelligence resources like RelPro in their marketing efforts to identify a list of companies for mass outreach.
    • For credit unions that are aggressively expanding their current commercial portfolio: Target specific industries and identify companies within those industries to contact — an approach that draws on both Industry Intelligence AND business intelligence. Also, increase the focus on SBA lending prospects.

Research boosts targeted prospecting and customer service

Of course, among the characteristics that set credit unions apart from other financial institutions is not only their customer service but also their local community focus. And this is where using technology-based tools like Vertical IQ and RelPro can really help credit unions shine, enabling bankers to focus their prospecting efforts and then more effectively prepare for meetings with those businesses.

For example, in addition to traditional prospecting tactics like networking at local events, with RelPro, a credit union banker can input their branch address and search for businesses within a five-mile radius to identify target companies. Then, it is all about making that initial outreach more personal.

As Jenny explained, “One of the great things about leveraging business intelligence tools like RelPro is you’ll be able to research the company prior to calling them or having a meeting with them.” In addition to key contact information, RelPro shows you which banks they currently have loans with and also what they’ve researched in the past three months in terms of business lending, commercial banking, and other financial products, including SBA loans. Knowing this can help you tailor your messaging to the business owner.

But you’re not done with your preparation yet. To further personalize your outreach, you can take advantage of the RelPro-Vertical IQ integration and go directly from RelPro to the business’s appropriate NAS/SIC code information within Vertical IQ to get up-to-speed on Industry Intelligence relevant to that company.

With just one click, you can quickly identify some targeted, industry-specific call prep questions, maybe a recent development that’s happened in that industry over the past 30 days, maybe even some industry terminology to use when you’re meeting with the business owner or planning to send them a follow-up email.

Credit risk management meets added value

According to Equifax research, roughly 21% of existing credit union members are small business owners. With that in mind, there’s another important benefit that credit unions can get from using technology tools to implement or grow their business banking and lending programs, and that is more tailored, better-informed business lending. There are two key pieces to this …

First, as credit unions’ business lenders pursue new loan deals, it is essential that they take the time to understand the ins and outs of their prospects’ industries — particularly niches that are new to their team. This research and analysis allows the lender to best serve the business owner’s needs while protecting the credit union members’ assets.

Lenders also should ensure that their credit union has an appetite for a particular industry. This means using accurate industry forecasting, current financial benchmark data, and factoring in the credit union’s risk tolerance. The Industry Intelligence on Vertical IQ makes doing this important type of research quick and simple. You can easily sort and target our Industry Profiles based on numerous criteria.

Once you have zeroed in on a niche to pursue, the banker or lender can review the Vertical IQ Industry Profile to learn about that industry’s operations, common risks, the latest trends, industry terminology, frequently used banking products, and more. All of this information can help you offer better lending guidance to business owners while also bolstering your credit documentation and managing credit risk. (And again, using the Vertical IQ/RelPro integration, you can go directly from the Vertical IQ Industry Profile into RelPro to identify businesses within that industry that are in your footprint and key contact information.)

Then, once you have a business in your sales pipeline, it’s time to go one step further to deepen that relationship and create trusted advisor status with the business owner. It’s simple to offer this next-level service and value when you use Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence tools.

    • Use the Industry Profile to get familiar with the industry prior to a meeting or call with a business owner so you can ask salient questions focused on their pain points or potential opportunities within their industry. This can be especially valuable in building the confidence of newer, less experienced bankers.
    •  Print off and share a customer version of the Industry Profile or a timely news article as a touchpoint or as a valuable leave-behind for the business owner.
    • Use our Localized Industry Data to serve as a local economist for business owners (many of whom may not have a CFO for their small- to medium-sized business [SMB]), sharing useful information like which industries are expanding or contracting in your area, wage data, real estate pricing, and more.

What a difference intelligence makes!

As more credit unions strategize, launch, or expand their business lending divisions, it’s crucial for credit unions to continue to create a culture that’s confident, competent, and trusted by its members. Ultimately, that means providing their business lending teams with the right support and tools.

The benefits of using business and Industry Intelligence tools like RelPro and Vertical IQ are multifold. Such insights can focus credit unions’ business prospecting while boosting the personalized service they offer to business owners. But perhaps even more important, effectively using business and Industry Intelligence builds your business banking and lending teams’ confidence and credibility while amplifying their trusted advisor status with your members.

As I summarized at the conclusion of the webinar, members already come to your credit union for their personal banking needs, and it’s just as important that you’re able to show them why they can trust you with their business needs as well.

Thank you to our friends at RelPro for cohosting the “Leveraging Data & Insights to Power Credit Unions’ Commercial Lending Strategies” webinar with us. Click here if you’d like to see a recording of the webinar. Or, if you’d like to learn more about how to tap into the power of Industry Intelligence with Vertical IQ, request a demo today!

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