SARASOTA, Fla. -- Lynne Truschel used a bit of shoe leather and some high-tech help from her friends as her credit union launched its part in the effort to wean folks off payday lenders in Sarasota.
Truschel is executive vice president at $238 million Sarasota Coastal CU, which has just become the first user of the iAdvance short-term lending solution from its longtime core processor, Galaxy Plus Credit Union Systems.
iAdvance is a turnkey software system that lets a credit union set loan amounts, lending and savings criteria and fees to encourage members to use it instead of payday lenders that have become ubiquitous in so many communities across the country, including Sarasota.
"We really want to put them out of business. We really believe they are predatory," Truschel says. "We really believe there is a better way, and as a trusted financial adviser in our community, we think our credit union can provide that."
The advising piece is where the shoe leather analogy comes in. Truschel says she "put on my dark sunglasses" and went into a local payday lending office to procure a loan. She says what struck her about it was the staff's efficiency and attitude.
"There were no lectures, no one tried to give me advice. I just got my loan and left," she says.
Training her own staff to do the same will be a trick to making it work at Sarasota Coastal, Truschel says.
"Our people are fixers. They have a tendency to want to offer advice, to try to help you and get you on a safer path," she says. "At the other place they didn't criticize or condemn, they just took care of business. We'll be working with our people to get them to understand that this needs to be handled as just another product."
Sarasota Coastal also has an unusual teller system that will lend itself to such a system. Members entering the five branches are directed to stations where they then get on the phone with either a sales or service representative at the call center.
The short-term lending program is still unfolding, Truschel says, but right now the intent is for 30-day loans at a maximum of $500 with a $15 application fee and a goal of 12% interest. Borrowers must be 21 or older, a member for at least 60 days, and have a checking account and the same employer for the past six months.
And they can't be rolled over without limit, one way payday lenders use to trap borrowers in a downward spiral of debt. "We're working hard to be helpful, not predatory," Truschel says. "There'll be limits that the payday lenders don't have and, when the time's right, help we can offer that they wouldn't."
Truschel says Sarasota Coastal expects to eventually offer the automated lending system over the Internet, and Roxanne Goins, vice president of business development for Galaxy, says it was, indeed, developed behind the security wall of her Fiserv unit's home banking product.
It also was developed specifically for Sarasota Coastal after Galaxy found a credit union willing to be the beta while the solution was prepared for the broader market.
"We don't see it as a big money maker for Galaxy, just like Lynne doesn't see it as a big money maker for her credit union," Goins says.
"We see it as a way to use our services to help credit unions bring the underserved and unbanked back into mainstream lending," the Galaxy executive says.
Goins says iAdvance can be sold to any credit union that wants it, not just Galaxy or other Fiserv clients. She says it's currently deployed only at Sarasota Coastal but that she has seen interest growing in it as the National Credit Union Foundation's Real Solutions program takes hold, and expects to see more after Sarasota Coastal gets some experience with it as the first deployment.
Real Solutions has the goal of helping more than 2,000 credit unions in 33 states offer new products and services to attract more than 250,000 members in untapped and underserved markets.
Truschel says she attended a meeting the NCUF held in Tampa and that of the 30 credit unions represented, 10 signed up immediately for the Real Solutions programs. It's also expected to be a hot topic at the next Galaxy users meeting.
Such programs, including iAdvance, "are really opening our eyes philosophically and really helping us get back to our roots, to what credit unions are supposed to be all about," she says.