Meet The Lending Finalists For The 2019 Innovation Series

These four innovators are pushing the envelope toward new levels of efficiency and service in credit union lending.

In 2018, launched a one-of-a kind contest that showcases the ways in which inventive suppliers are transforming the credit union industry.

Read about the finalists by clicking on the links below.


Presented by and sponsored by Callahan Associates, the Innovation Series gives four suppliers 10 minutes to impress a captive audience of credit union decision-makers. Suppliers pitch their cutting-edge solutions. Attendees vote on their favorite.

The 2018 Innovation Series spotlighted solutions of the Mobile and Lending variety. The 2019 Innovation Series includes Mobile, Lending, and Member Experience. From vendors large and small, products and services featured in this year’s Lending category are using analytics, machine learning, and other automation to make for efficient, intuitive credit union lending from application to closing.

Read their stories, watch the webinar, and vote for the winner.


Greg Kovtun, Business Development Manager/Alliances, Blend

Describe your innovation.

Greg Kovtun: This year, as our sixth year in the lending technology space, we officially became the first platform to achieve certification to supply asset verification reports for Fannie Mae’s innovative Day 1 Certainty program.

We also launched Blend Intelligence, our trademark engine powered by technologies including cutting-edge artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation to help lenders deliver a world-class home lending experience.

On top of it all, we also launched home equity products that allow lenders to offer the same leading Blend experience when members want to apply for a home equity line of credit or home equity loan.

What opportunity or challenge does it address?

GK: Blend is proud to help power an intuitive and elegant home lending application experience for tens of thousands of credit union members nationwide.

We have more than two dozen credit union customers with many more on their way to working with Blend. One standout is Mountain America Credit Union, a longtime Blend partner and enthusiast. Blend has helped power MACU’s 11% year-over-year growth and is the engine behind its mortgage and home equity applications.

Shortly after implementation, Blend won 100% adoption from all of MACU’s loan officers, who stand by the product and say it helps them serve their members better.

How does it increase member value?

GK: Blend allows credit unions the ability to deliver a world-class member experience online the same way they would in-person at a branch. By keeping credit union technology cutting edge and ensuring it’s easy to use, Blend helps increase access to home loans and capital especially for those who can’t visit a branch during normal business hours.

More than 50% of activity on Blend’s platform occurs outside of office hours, and one-third of loan applicants apply on mobile, oftentimes because they don’t have other means to connect. As institutions dedicated to their members’ financial health and wellness, Blend helps credit unions deliver on their promise of putting members first.

What differentiates this innovation from competitors?

GK: Blend is different from other digital lending platforms because of our pace of innovation, focus on usability to improve application conversion, data verification, and intelligence capabilities to drive operational efficiency, as well as the scale of our offering. Today, Blend’s platform powers 25% of the mortgage market.

Whereas our competitors might focus on a single financial product or specialize in one area of loan origination, we are transforming the entire lending workflow. We help our customers offer digital-first, leading experiences that offer a world-class experience for their members and a more efficient, modern experience for loan teams.

As a company, partnering with the industry is important to us, that’s why we have out-of-the-box integrations with some of the top loan origination systems on the market as well as product and pricing engines, GSEs, underwriting software, asset connectivity providers, and leading CRMs.

We’re working toward building a simple, more secure, and transparent consumer lending ecosystem.

Watch the Lending finalists pitch their leading-edge solutions.


Dave Buerger, Co-Founder/CEO, CUneXus

Describe your innovation.

Dave Buerger: Our cplXpress lending and marketing automation platform enables credit unions to provide their members a new benefit of membership: perpetual loan approval.

The software uses advanced data analysis to completely eliminate the loan application process for creditworthy members, granting them ultimate transparency into their personal borrowing power and one-click access to highly personalized, pre-approved loans at every digital and physical touchpoint.

What opportunity or challenge does it address?

DB: Companies like Amazon, Uber, and Apple have set the consumer expectation of a personalized, mobile-first, one-click experience, but the financial services industry has been slow to react and has fallen woefully short of these expectations.

CUneXus is first-to-market with a proven technology that beautifully and completely addresses this need. Simultaneously, our solution also solves the need for lenders to more quickly and efficiently process loans.

Clients nationwide report significant gains in both loan volume and back-office efficiency. For example, one client’s average processing time for personal loans, from request to funding, dropped by 60%, from 25 minutes to 10 minutes, and auto loan processing times dropped by 80%, from 40 minutes to eight minutes.

How does it increase member value?

DB: At CUneXus, we live by the mantra Think 1-Click. We believe accessibility, personalization, and speed are the keys to optimizing the customer experience. We’re proud to assert that no other solution provides a faster path to funds, but rapid funds availability is just one of the member benefits. There’s much more.

A member can log in to online or mobile banking at any time and see exactly how much money they have available to them right now, across every consumer loan category the credit union has to offer. They can select from available loan terms and rates, indicate how much they’d like to borrow from their available funds, and then activate the loan with a few taps.

Ten seconds. It doesn’t get any easier or more stress-free than that. Why should a high-value, low-risk borrower fill out an application? The credit union has everything it needs to make a responsible lending decision. These members expect and deserve a better experience.

What differentiates this innovation from competitors?

DB: Competitors focus on streamlining the loan application process; our solution completely eliminates it, enabling a 10-second loan activation experience. No other solution on the market leverages ongoing data analysis to bypass the loan application step.

Our Comprehensive Pre-Screened Lending Strategy (CPL) and the Perpetual Approval experience it enables is the secret to providing an unrivaled digital lending and borrowing experience.

The strategy seems to be resonating with the industry, as we’ve rapidly grown to serve 100 financial institutions representing more than $180 billion in combined assets and more than 10 million consumers. The platform is currently generating more than $8 million in approved loan requests daily.

Watch the Lending finalists pitch their leading-edge solutions.


Jorge Ponce, Director of Product and Vendor Management, FirstClose

Describe your innovation.

Jorge Ponce: FirstClose delivers a powerful web app and LOS plugin that is the industry’s first and only home equity and refi tool that offers everything from application to servicing (credit score, valuation, title, tax, flood, closing, and recording) on one easy-to-navigate platform.

We deliver simplified vendor management by consolidating vendors and products on this one platform. FirstClose makes it easy to identify and repair gaps to maximize lender profits.

Additionally, our platform leverages property data intelligence and suitability logic to determine what valuation and title products are best suited for a loan based on property characteristics and other key electronic data sources.

What opportunity or challenge does it address?

JP: This innovation reduces the back and forth that typically occurs during the valuation and title processes of the loan.

Currently, a credit union might order an AVM only to realize the AVM might not fit the member’s needs due to accuracy or lack thereof. Our suitability logic takes the stare and compare process out of it.

It’s the same thing with title. One of our core products is our Instant Property Report. Our suitability logic allows the credit union to determine instantly whether this property is suited for the instant product or a traditional property search.

How does it increase member value?

JP: The credit union doesn’t have to spend additional money ordering products that don’t fit the member’s needs and can pass this savings in costs to the member.

Also, it reduces turn time, which is important to members. FirstClose’s suitability logic drastically reduces turn time by ensuring the credit union orders the right product the first time. This could mean the difference in days and even weeks as to how soon the member receives funds.

With accelerated property and borrower data intelligence, a full suite of solutions, and a simplified process, FirstClose users have seen up to 40% reduction in turn times and significant cost savings, leveling the playing field for lenders of all sizes.

FirstClose also evaluates where vendors are underperforming and provides instant options that are a better fit. This allows lenders to speed up turn times, reduce origination costs, and increase overall productivity.

With the flexibility of the FirstClose platform, coupled with the FirstClose Master Service Agreement, lenders can swap providers with a click of a button no new vendor contract negotiations, no vetting, no minimums, and no hassles.

What differentiates this innovation from competitors?

JP: We combine world-class technology with our ability to mimic a credit union’s underwriting guidelines to apply suitability logic, which removes the guesswork, accelerates turn-times, and saves time and money.

Our superior property and borrower data intelligence, dynamic vendor management selection, and practical, street-wise knowledge of home equity and refi lending simplify workflow so a credit union can lend confidently. This improves the customer experience of members across an enterprise.

Property data intelligence and suitability logic are just the beginning. As technology, availability of electronic data, and innovation keeps pushing us forward, we will answer the call.

Watch the Lending finalists pitch their leading-edge solutions.



Monique Morden, CEO, JUDI.AI

Describe your innovation.

Monique Morden: JUDI.AI provides financial institutions with a configurable, artificial intelligence-driven loan adjudication platform with a unified credit engine for SMB and consumer lending. We use APIs to instantly access third-party data sources and feed them into our machine learning-driven AI platform, which enables instant financial analysis and evaluation of risk using traditional and non-traditional data sources.

What opportunity or challenge does it address?

MM: Small business lending, in particular, lacks the economies of scale due to inefficient manual adjudication processes caused by a multitude of internal legacy systems and antiquated credit models lacking the contextual view of a small business. Financial institutions are struggling to leverage APIs, big data, AI, and machine learning in their strategy for digital transformation.

How does it increase member value?

MM: Credit unions implementing JUDI.AI’s platform provide their members with instant answers regarding their loan applications. Member expectations are exceeded, and staff members are happy, too. The time saved through automating manual adjudication processes means the credit union’s staff can spend more time focused on members, offer value-added services, and create additional capacity.

What differentiates this innovation from competitors?

MM: Our technology is differentiated by the following characteristics:

  • It is highly configurable with features that a credit union can toggle on/off and parameters that a credit union super-admin user can set and modify.
  • It offers instant financial analysis, from income verification for small business owners applying for a mortgage to calculating a DSCR in real time for small business lending.
  • It features real-time insights and monitoring so a credit union can provide advice and guidance to members.
  • Its proprietary SMB credit model uses the risk of the owner, business, and financial status of the business.
  • It is highly secure and scalable.

Watch the Lending finalists pitch their leading-edge solutions.

All interviews have been edited and condensed.

Read more about other Innovation Series finalists by clicking on the links below.


February 20, 2019

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