Against the Grain ESOP
At a time when some companies are skittish about paying out stored-up pension plans for longtime employees, Lending Solutions Inc. recently went in the other direction.
The Elgin, Ill.-based provider of lending center services and consulting programs for financial institutions said it has established a new employee stock ownership plan.
Introduced to employees on Jan. 11, the ESOP transfers 30% ownership to the employees of LSI through a defined contribution benefit plan. The company, which employs more than 400 loan officers, said it established the plan on Dec. 20, 1012.
“Transitioning to an ESOP model gives us the opportunity to reward many of our long-term employees for their commitment and hard work over the years, as well as attract new employees,” said Mark Johnson, chairman and principal stockholder of LSI.
LSI’s ESOP will be administered by the company’s ESOP committee, working in conjunction with a third-party trustee and a third-party administrator, the firm said. LSI said it engaged the services of Innovative Shareholder Strategies throughout the development and introduction of the ESOP. Launched in 2012, ISS is a financial advisory practice specializing in ESOP consulting services.
“We’re tremendously proud of what we’ve achieved over the past several years at LSI,” said Lee Kolquist, LSI CEO. “Our employees have always taken great pride and ownership in their work, and now, with the ESOP, eligible employees will have the opportunity to earn a tangible stake in the company to validate that ownership.”
According to the National Center for Employee Ownership, there are approximately 11,500 ESOPs in the U.S. covering nearly 14 million participants, LSI said. The NCEO said companies with ESOPs grow 2.3% to 2.4% faster than comparable non-ESOP companies as measured by sales, employment and productivity growth, according to LSI.
“An ESOP is a complicated transaction with a lot of moving parts,” Kolquist said. “Innovative Shareholder Strategies was there every step of the way, guiding us through the process with unparalleled commitment and expertise. The professionals from ISS took the time to understand our objectives and to structure a tailored solution beneficial to LSI, its shareholders and its employees.”
LSI provides lending and member service to over 300 of North America’s credit unions, banks, and mortgage companies.
Last year marked several milestones for LSI, including taking in 500,000 loan applications, the company said. The application came from the $1.1 billion Partners Federal Credit Union in Orlando, Fla.
The company said it also set records for total calls answered, indirect loans handled and overall transactions processed.
The company, founded by industry consultant Rex Johnson, said it continues to maintain a steady rate of growth each year. In July 2012, it opened its second contact center in Naperville, Ill.
“In 2012, we answered more phone calls and processed more loan applications than ever,” said Kolquist said. “However, what we are most proud of is the quality of service that we have been able to consistently deliver. Helping our credit union clients build deeper, long-term relationships with their members has been our mission and continues to be what we strive for each day.”
As an enhancement to its online loan application, LSI also launched a mobile-friendly application last year. The mobile application contains all the functionality of LSI’s standard internet application but is optimized for smart phones including iPhones and all Android phones, the company said. The application features automatic recognition of browser types–mobile versus standard–and opens the appropriate application for the member.
At the time news of the mobile application was announced, Dave Brooke, LSI executive vice president, said the product builds on the company’s mission to provide to help its clients process more loans.