By John Flynn, Open Lending President & CEO
Most of you reading this probably get in a car and drive to work every day. If you choose to live in the city you might choose to bike or take public transportation. But what about those who don’t have the luxury of choice?
Living close enough to work to walk is one option, but what if you need to change jobs and you don’t own a car? It significantly hinders where you can work or live, your possibilities for getting groceries, the opportunities your children might have for after school activities, where you can take your family to the doctors and more. Those who might be able to least afford it are forced to pay more for other life necessities when they don’t have the flexibility of a personal vehicle.
These hard-working Americans may also be most vulnerable to high-interest, subprime loans. I recently read in City Lab that as much as 26% of all auto loans issued in 2016 hit this market, up from 14% just seven years prior.
Scrupulous lenders must begin to serve these consumers, the most susceptible among us. Some don’t think they deserve better, while others don’t know greater opportunities exist for them beyond the buy-here, pay-here model or other rate-gouging lenders. Banks and credit unions can do better to reach out to these borrowers and offer fair loans. Here’s how:
Understand where they’re coming from. Where do they live? Target them. What’s their lifestyle? Where do they work, and how much schooling do they have?
Educate them on the benefits of doing business with you. Very likely you can lower their monthly payments (and interest rate, but they may not care as much about that). Lead with what your institution can do for them.
Be convenient. Buy-here, pay-here auto dealers are convenient, which is part of the reason these borrowers go to them. Consider indirect lending, developing relationships with local dealers or working with any one of our partners listed under Loan Origination Systems here.
Make your service fast, simple and human – whether online or in person. Staff training is critical. And, allow for a payment schedule that aligns with the borrower’s paycheck.
Provide financial counseling and credit education. Again, make it simple, easy and human. Less prescriptive and more conversational and empathetic.
Take advantage of word of mouth marketing. When you help these borrowers, they’re often more willing to listen and learn about how the credit union or bank can help them even more. Plus, they’ll tell their friends about you.
Use testimonial stories on your website and in social media to help spread the word that your institution cares about every individual in the community.
Advertise in media outlets that are likely to attract these potential borrowers or can target them.
Collaborate with local nonprofits and community centers to help get the word out.
People do business with people, not companies. Personalize your business so these consumers can better relate. Once you get them in, ensure they have a single point of contact for help to create an emotional bond with their representative. This will also bond them to your institution.
Money is a very delicate subject, and many of these borrowers have been burned before. Demonstrate to them how they can get the help they need with respect and dignity. Show them how you’ve assisted others with getting that much-needed, used SUV to get to work and to grandma’s for the holidays. Then do the same for them. Don’t be their lender of last resort – even if you are. Act like their lender of choice, and you will be.