Sep 4, 2018 | Credit Union Lending The Pros and Cons of Indirect Lending

We’re starting to see a shift in indirect lending where credit unions are beginning to back off. It has become clear to the credit union industry that the benefits do not necessarily outweigh the drawbacks when it comes to auto loans. Here are some pros and even more cons of indirect lending.

The Pros and Cons of Indirect Lending

Indirect Credit Union LendingIndirect lending has grown substantially over the past several years, especially with the auto lending market. While auto loans grew 18% between 2011 and 2016, other loans grew at just 10%. Today, auto loans comprise 35% of most credit union’s portfolios, however, we’re starting to see a shift where credit unions are backing off of indirect lending programs. It has become clear to the credit union industry that the benefits do not necessarily outweigh the drawbacks. Here are some pros and even more cons of indirect lending:

Pros and Cons of Indirect Lending

Indirect Lending Pros. Advantages for your credit union:

  1. Convenience. Indirect lending is substantially more convenient for the buyer. They are able to communicate with the auto dealer directly, and don’t become the middleman trying to shuffle paper between the credit union and the dealership.
  2. New Auto Volume. Building a relationship with dealerships will allow your credit union to have access to a consistent flow of indirect lending opportunities. Credit unions with a clear and efficient underwriting standard will allow profitability for both themselves and the dealer, thus cultivating a long-term relationship.
  3. New Member Channel. Extending auto financing options to potential members each month bodes the opportunity onboarding members to your credit union. People seeking auto loans might need another loan or other financial solutions down the road, and if they received a good experience through your indirect lending program, then your credit union will be on their mind for future opportunities.
  4. Easy to Score. These loans are easy to obtain. There is no shortage of members seeking auto financing, and auto loans come in with little to no effort on behalf of the credit union, which is a big reason why indirect lending has become so popular.

Indirect Lending Cons. Reasons to back away from these investments:

  1. Expensive. Indirect lending does not provide the best value. Cost of acquisition and the risk you take on could outweigh the potential rewards of this loan segment.
  2. Low yield. Oftentimes, indirect loans have low APRs and lengthy payback periods. Although this is a great value for the borrower, it is not an ideal situation for the credit union. Auto loans often produce low yields which make the margin of error for defaulting, very small.
  3. Higher delinquency, loss, and deficiency balances. Direct auto loans have proven to be less risky than indirect for credit unions. Direct loans tend to have higher rates and a lower average delinquency ratio.
  4. The dealer’s motive. As a sales-centered industry, dealerships can be hyper-focused on increasing their numbers and making a sale. For them, the quality is not as important as quantity. Dealers are willing to take the risk on less than optimal applicants because they are not the ones who bear the loss should the borrower end up defaulting.  
  5. Ancillary insurance. Indirect lending allows the borrower to have less contact with your credit union, which means they won’t have the chance to explore other products or services you have to offer. Insurance obviously couples well with auto loans, and without speaking to the member, they’re going to obtain that elsewhere, if at all.
  6. Members... just for now. The numbers are in and very few members, through the indirect channel, become meaningful, long-term members. Typically those seeking auto funding are shopping around and looking for the best possible deal. For this reason, it’s unlikely they will turn into lifelong members, or even return to your credit union for another loan. Only 2% to 3% of indirect loan members open another account or take out another loan.
  7. High turnover and low ROA. The auto business is a high-turnover industry, and so is auto lending. Cars lose value quickly, and people buy and sell their vehicles more frequently, especially now that leasing is more popular. This leads to refinancing, and ultimately poor returns for the lender.

Although indirect lending is a quick and easy way to increase loan volume and opportunities to generate members, the cost of these investments is higher than at first glance. Car sales have been fast-growing since the Great Recession, which means auto loans have done the same. Despite this, they have not proven to be the best investment. Rather than shy away from indirect lending completely, look at the quality of the opportunity and work with dealers you trust. This will cut back on the negative elements expressed above, and optimize indirect lending opportunities for your credit union.

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Preston Packer

Written By: Preston Packer

Executive Vice President | CMO at FLEX Credit Union Technology
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