As we face yet another year of minimal face-to-face interactions—financial transactions included—your bank may be at the intersection of more than a few crossroads. If there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that come 2021, the decisions you make regarding your digital toolbox are uniquely high-stakes.

There’s no question that your bank’s digital solutions are more ingrained in your day-to-day operations than ever before, and all odds point to them staying that way even after the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end. Once your organization gets used to more efficient, effective small business lending workflows, why would they want to turn back? And why would you?

It’s not overblown: Your tech selections are some of the most important business decisions you’ll make over the course of the next 12 months—and the risk you’d incur by failing to invest in the right solutions could be astronomical. 

Here is LendingFront’s official guide on how to best spend your bank’s 2021 tech budget, and ways it’ll benefit your institution well beyond the new year. 

  • A digital loan origination solution

Regardless of your bank’s location or size, the first step in any small business lending process is origination. And until 2020, this step (mostly) happened in person. Small business applicants would head to their community bank’s website, only to be redirected to their local branch to complete their application.

Investing in a digital loan origination solution lets you originate applications from anywhere, anytime—even when your bank or branch is closed.  In 2021, spend your tech dollars on a solution that will widen your reach, help more small business customers, and streamline your application processes at the same time. Originate more loans, in less time, at a time when financial assistance matters most. It’s a win-win-win.

  • A digital document uploading solution

We’re willing to bet document intake and management drains a significant portion of your employees’ energy—and operational time. From the identification forms to the financial documentation required for every application, loan officers are drowning in paperwork. Struggling small business customers spend valuable time finding, faxing, mailing, or delivering paper documents, and the process places an equally heavy administrative burden on your employees. 

Perhaps you switched to email applications this past year. The endless back-and-forth and notorious attachment issues probably plagued your bank just as much as the paper-based processes did. With a digital solution, your applicants can upload all documents directly to their application portal—simplifying organization and forgoing the back-and-forth altogether. Instantaneous and entirely digital, document uploading solutions save time, money, and labor—and reduce costs, errors, and frustrations in the process. 

  • An automated two-way communication tool

Throughout the global pandemic, the need for efficient, effective communication has soared. People need to share and access information when they want it, where they want it. And if your bank is leaving small business customers in the dark with inconsistent or murky communication—whether willingly or not—there’s no question they’ve noticed. 

Manual communication is slow. It’s costly. And it’s a challenge for most banks on a normal basis, let alone amid an influx of applications in a time of major financial instability. Automating communication for your small business customers can help you keep everyone in the loop without the added effort—and with minimal manual intervention. 

A secure automated two-way communication tool can help streamline communication at every stage, from document collection to status tracking. The tool takes the labor out of follow-ups, recognizing missing documents, application materials, and more, and pinging your applicants with automated alerts to remind them to fill in the gaps. This way, your applicants and loan officers need only act when there’s a clear next step to take—reducing delays and keeping them perpetually up-to-date.

  • A digital fund transfer integration

Once you make it through origination and underwriting, how do you actually fund your small business loans? It’s yet another step in a tedious, time-consuming manual process—a process that for too long, has made small business lending entirely unprofitable. With increased digitization, you can lower the cost of small business lending at multiple critical points, all the way down to funding. 

A solution that allows you to transfer funds online is an integral piece of the 2021 tech puzzle, and there’s more to it than you might think. Most automated funding solutions will meet your customers at the beginning of their application process rather than waiting until the approval process is complete. By allowing borrowers to link their business bank accounts to their initial application, you do more than just open the door to seamless digital transfer one they’re approved. You instantly break open visibility, cutting down the amount of time it takes for your bank to determine a borrower’s creditworthiness. At a time where real-time cash flow is a more important metric than ever, adopting a solution like this is one of the most timely tech decisions you can make. 

  • A fully end-to-end small business lending solution

Looking to do more than just level-up—and beat the game entirely? Adopt a fully end-to-end small business lending solution to carry your bank through 2021 and beyond. An end-to-end solution will do all of the above and more, allowing you to benefit from a comprehensive application intake and management solution with the ability to automate the entire lending workflow, and prime your business for whatever comes next.

With end-to-end automation, small business loans can be fully funded—from start to finish—in as little as ten minutes. But it’s not an all or nothing commitment. An all-in-one solution allows you the freedom to automate as much or as little as you’d like, delivering the flexibility you need to navigate what, at the very least, could be the second-most unpredictable year of our lifetime.