Are You Working With a Vendor or a Partner?

By John Flynn, CEO, Open Lending

Service providers that say they want to partner with your credit union can come across as a pick-up line – something that’s said to get in the door. But it’s only a corny line if the potential business partner doesn’t have a solid foundation to back it up.

Vendor relationships are more transactional. They offer a service you need, you pay for it and then it’s delivered. No questions about why you want to do a particular thing. They just need the sale.

As a former credit union CEO, I have a deeper understanding of your needs, the financial pressures and desire to serve your membership to the best of your ability. I’ve been in your shoes, looking for just the right third-party services to operate efficiently and serve our members as they want to be served. Others on our team have been in and around credit unions and other financial services areas as well. This understanding is a solid foundation for a relationship and true partnership building.

Cutting through the partnership rhetoric of some to what is real can be difficult. What they say may sound good or look good on paper, but the reality can be far from what was promised. Here are some of my observations to determine whether you’re working with a true partner or someone who just says they are:

1. First impressions matter. When a sales executive walks in your office, the first thing they should do is ask what your objectives are. If they don’t know why you’re doing something, they cannot begin to understand how they can help you.

2. Once you answer about your objectives, are they tailoring their response to your specific needs or are they running through a laundry list of their products and services? When a partner really listens to you, it’s more respectful of your desires and time, as well as their own. If they’re willing to waste your time and theirs on a bunch of items that don’t suit your needs, think about how that might go down the road if something goes wrong.

3. Are they interested in engaging with and educating you and your team? Many vendors have expertise credit unions don’t have in-house. They can show you how to use their tools to more efficiently run your credit union, drive more loans or deposits, or to serve more members. Partners show you how you can do more with what you already have, and only suggest upsells when they’d be truly helpful to your needs.

4. All companies comprise human beings, and we all mess up from time to time. When it happens, hopefully infrequently, do they take swift action to resolve the problem? Further, I loved it when I was a credit union CEO and vendors would take my suggestions for improvements and make them a reality.

5. Results. When third-parties take care to demonstrate how they’re helping, they prove their value. At OpenLending, we provide analytics to demonstrate to your credit union how we’re helping you grow loans and serve more members who otherwise may have been stuck in a high-interest car loan or not received a loan at all. We care about your members.

As a credit union executive, you wield more power than you know over your business partners. It is your partners’ jobs to make your life easier – to make you look good, whether to your boss or your members. OpenLending offers risk modeling and other services to ensure your safety and our true partnership. Contact us today to begin a healthy partnership.