Auto Lenders Will Stay Remote Into 2021 –– Here’s How Smart eForms Can Help

Leor Melamedov

Even though a vaccine against the coronavirus appears to be on the horizon, many auto lenders are preparing to keep their offices remote until at least the middle of 2021. Most obviously, this is to protect their borrowers and employees.

It’s also very likely that auto lenders see that remote auto loan originations and servicing isn’t just doable, but convenient — provided they have the right technology to support it. Auto lenders that want to keep up remote operations into the coming year can make the most of their reality by using tools like smart eForms that facilitate remote auto loan originations.

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Auto Lenders Are in No Rush to Return to In-Person Interactions

Auto lenders rapidly switched to remote business starting in March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was first declared. Unfortunately, nearly a year later cases are spiraling out of control. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention predicts between 690,000 to 1.7 million new cases for the week ending on December 26th, 2020.

Even with viable coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, most auto lenders acknowledge that herd immunity won’t be attained within the next couple of months. In the meantime, they are committed to facilitating remote borrower servicing and loan originations.

Here are just a couple of auto lenders that are planning to stay remote until at least mid-2021:

  1. GM Financial: This auto lender plans to work remotely until at least June 2021, according to President and Chief Executive Daniel Berce. Even once employees are brought back to their offices.
  2. Exeter Finance: This Dallas-based lender will bring its 1,300 employees back to the office sometime during 2021, but on a rotational basis to mitigate any remaining risk of transmission, according to Stacey Giles, the executive vice president of human resources. No exact return date has been determined.
  3. Navy Federal Credit Union: This Virginia-based auto lender claims to be in no rush to bring employees back to the office. Even when employees do return, they will have “more telework, and differently configured workspaces,” according to Senior Vice President Keith Hoskins. The lender credits its continued success in maintaining a remote workforce with a 24/7 contact center and reimagined workflow.
  4. Ally Financial: This lender’s president, Doug Timmerman, has said that it plans to maintain a remote employee workforce for some of its collections team in the long-term, and is making adjustments accordingly. For this lender, remote auto lending is not just a stop-gap during the pandemic, but a desirable way of working for some of its workforce even when the coronavirus is no longer an issue.

Many auto lenders are not about to go back to business as usual any time soon — and some may even decide to keep some or all business units remote permanently. Given this reality, auto lenders should ensure they have the right technology to make this a sustainable arrangement. And one of the most promising technologies is smart forms.

How to Harness Smart Forms For Remote Auto Lending

Smart forms can help auto lenders overcome the communications gap of remote auto loan originations and collections. Lenders may be concerned that information is getting lost when borrowers must apply for loans or loan modifications remotely. Without an originations or collections officer helping borrowers with the application face-to-face, the fear is that they will make mistakes on digital forms.

Fortunately, smart forms make it easy to facilitate accurate, unambiguous, and quick remote borrower applications. Here’s how to do it:

1. Bake Conditional Logic Into the Smart Form

Smart forms built around conditional logic allow loan officers to generate dynamic loan application and modification forms. Fields only appear when a customer checks a checkbox or selects a certain option from a dropdown.

Whether it’s for originations or servicing, here is a typical process for setting up smart forms based on conditional logic:

  1. Create a rule for the trigger field.
  2. Select which additional fields to show if the customer’s response in the trigger field complies with the rule (the fields can be of any type: checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdowns, or text responses can all trigger a conditional workflow).
  3. Create additional rules for a trigger field based on the customer’s response.

Examples of Conditional Logic for Auto Loan Originations:

If the customer ticks a box that says “currently working,” then the field will populate asking for monthly net income.

If the customer lists monthly income as “$1,500” then they will be shown a field asking about any other open loans. If the customer lists monthly income as “$8,000,” then they won’t see this field as they are in a lower risk category.

Examples of Conditional Logic for Auto Loan Servicing

If the customer wants to defer their auto loan, then ask for proof of a change in income.
If the customer wants lower monthly payments, then show a checkbox asking if they would be interested in signing up for ACH.

2. Maintain Lending Officer Involvement

Just because auto lender employees are remote doesn’t mean they need to be uninvolved with the form-filling process. Quite the opposite. Many auto lenders find that they can collect digital eForms most quickly and effectively when employees guide the borrowers through the process via phone call.

Lending officers simply send the smart form to the customer via a digital channel while on the call. As the customer makes their way through the form, the officer can view the form-filling process in real-time through their own console. This makes it easier for lenders to collaborate with borrowers in the moment, answer questions, and offer pinpointed guidance. It also increases the likelihood of the form getting filled out correctly the first time — preventing lenders from chasing customers for forms and eSignatures.

3. Set Up Smart Forms as Part of a Larger Automated Workflow

Smart forms are useful in that they self-populate with existing borrower information, and show or hide fields based on borrower details. But they are even more powerful when part of a greater automated digital workflow.

Based on customer responses in the initial loan application or modification form, loan officers can automatically be prompted to send borrowers requests for the stips they need. For example, if a borrower has a credit score under a certain number, or has failed to pay their auto loan for a certain number of months, they may be required to produce different supporting documents than a borrower who doesn’t fit those criteria.

The good news is that an automated digital workflow can be set up with business rules based on conditional logic, triggering requests for stips based on the information given. This eliminates officer guesswork, promoting both greater compliance and efficiency.

The Takeaway

With robust smart forms based on conditional logic, over-the-phone guidance, and automated workflow triggers, auto lenders make the most of their remote workforce. Such capabilities in smart forms eliminate any fears lenders may have about digital lending and servicing. With the right smart forms in place, lenders may find that they want to maintain their remote lending operations — even after the pandemic is over.

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