Where Do Online Applications Go?

An updated LOS operating system prompted TruStone Financial to re-evaluate its own loan processes.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • TruStone Financial removed data fields in its online loan applications and created a more efficient routing logic.
  • Online loan applications have shot up, and manual work for in-branch staff has decreased.

In early 2018, the third-party loan origination system for TruStone Financial Credit Union ($1.3B, Plymouth, MN) announced updates to its operating system. The company was adding functionality and improving the client experience. The changes got the credit union thinking about its own loan processes.

We looked at how we were routing our online loan applications to determine if we needed a better user experience for members,” says Katie Grindeland, the credit union’s senior vice president and director of marketing and communications.

After the evaluation, TruStone decided it did need to make improvements.


A Roundabout Route

At the time, TruStone’s online loan application system prompted non-members to self-select the branch location for processing.

We realized that asking non-members unfamiliar with our branch network ‘ to make this selection could introduce inefficiencies into the process; and, indeed, the data proved that to be true, Grindeland says.

Katie Grindeland, SVP Director of Marketing and Communications, TruStone Financial Credit Union

Most applicants selected the default option, the e-branch, which routed applications to the credit union’s contact center. From there, contact center managers reviewed the application to determine which branch to send the application to. According to Grindeland, managers were rerouting more than 100 applications every month.

Instead of working on the application, the contact center had to find the right branch and place it into that branch’s queue, the marketing director says.

The process was manual and slow, and the credit union knew there was room to improve the member experience.

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Streamlining Processes, Testing Assumptions

To start, TruStone streamlined the data fields within the application itself, removing some of the non-essential fields. It quickly noted a decrease in the abandonment rate.

TruStone also removed the ability to select a branch. Non-member online applications go to the contact center and current members can still select their preferred branch. But at the contact center, managers assign applications to branches based on each location’s ability to service the application rather than erroneous self-selected locations.

In-Branch Business Development

To feed the business development pipeline, TruStone branch employees share a vanity URL with prospective members who walk into the branch. If these prospective members apply for a loan, they can use the URL to ensure they reach that branch’s queue.

Across 2017, the credit union averaged approximately 200 online loan applications per month. In May of 2018, that number was 340.

Critically examining the application process prompted TruStone to also question its assumptions about where online applications came from. The amount and value of the data it collected offered a breadth of information that shined a light into the customer journey.

For example, TruStone can see what page applicants visit before applying for a loan. It can further segment that information by loan type and found personal loan applicants often come from TruStone’s rates page, whereas prospective auto loan borrowers apply from within the online banking portal or come from promotional emails. This kind of holistic view helps TruStone determine where to invest resources and how to better map the overall customer journey.


TruStone Financial Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.17

HQ: Plymouth, MN
MEMBERS: 107,544
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 15.2%
ROA: 1.37%

We can tailor marketing messages to exactly where people are in the sales funnel, Grindeland says. We’re better able to direct the impact of our marketing efforts.

The change in process did raise a few red flags for branch staff, who are now working a smaller percentage of the online applications they were previously, according to Grindeland. However, the old process also was inundating branch staff with applications for consumers that may not have been in their community.

Now, branch staff can focus more on building relationships in the neighborhoods, which is what the credit union prefers. But because the changes are still new, TruStone continues to underscore the value these changes will provide to the institution.

The new process really is better for everyone involved, Grindeland says. The branch staff are meeting their goals, the credit union is doing well, it’s a better user experience for the member, and it’s less time spent on manual work.

And to Grindeland’s mind, thanks to the credit union’s efforts to have forthright conversations, TruStone’s staff members are taking the message to heart and understanding why the credit union is making these changes.

We’re doing this for the members, the marketing director says. We’re back to fulfilling our vision and mission, the team is pulling in the right direction, and we’re far exceeding our expectations.


June 25, 2018

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