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Technology is playing a vital role in accelerating the delivery of much-needed funds to businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

With experts warning that small businesses face a potential cash crisis in the coming months, it is vital to enable swift processing of loan and finance applications.

Traditional lenders have come under fire for delays in processing claims, but agile lenders that have invested in modern technology are able to respond to requests much more quickly.

Automation is key to success

In an online seminar called From Hype to Reality, cloud-based lending and leasing software specialist Q2 revealed how its real-time processing is speeding up the application and underwriting experience.

This has played a key role in the past few months in helping companies to process applications efficiently and accurately under stimulus schemes, such as CBILS and Bounce Back Loans.

Using Q2’s digital solutions, accredited lenders can automate processes, generating the insights needed to make same-day decisions about loans to quickly support SMEs.

The seminar heard how Q2 can increase end customer satisfaction and experience of engaging with a lender or lessor.

Lenders with live operations that are digitally enabled are not suffering in the same way as others on older legacy platforms that struggling to cope with the time-consuming demands of having to manually process restructures and payment freezes and other back office operations.

During the seminar, Tony Sweeney, CIO of Close Brothers Asset Finance (pictured), revealed how investment in agile next-generation asset finance systems has helped the business to cope with disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweeney has led a multi-year digital transformation programme that has changed the way it works, with cloud-based software providing enhanced, personal customer service along with better insights and access to information for remote-working employees.

He said: “Our salespeople will have tools that help them engage with customers in a deeper way. Customers will see that we are even more aligned to them and feel we are even more proactive to their needs.

“My team is here to provide technology that helps our people to function better. That simplicity and clarity of vision we hope will keep us agile and keep us focused.

“The model has been proven by COVID-19 and it has deepened our resolve to push on with this and be successful.”

Asset Finance International reported earlier this year how Close Brothers employees were working from home, where possible, increasing video and telephone conferencing, and limiting travel between the offices that remain open, while still maintaining high service levels.

Close Brothers Asset Finance has introduced a new platform across the business, starting with global cloud-based software provider Salesforce as a foundation for change.

The intention was to move away from in-house, legacy systems in favour of software hosted by a specialist that would improve over time as technology develops.

Salesforce offers access to a market of service providers, whose apps provide specialist enhancements to the core software platform. Through the Salesforce marketplace, Close Brothers Asset Finance chose finance software specialist Q2 and workflow automation provider Conga as partners.

Sweeney said: “New tools like Q2 and Conga are allowing our people to become closer to customers and spend more time supporting them.

“Salespeople will have more time in front of customers and have more meaningful discussions because they will have remote access to data and information.”

Sweeney added: “Investing in Q2 and Conga means we have a single baseline into which everything can integrate.

“We are an asset finance company, not a technology company, and we want to make sure the technology won’t limit us. Taking things off the shelf from the common Salesforce platform speeds up our integration. That commonality is at the core of what we want to do. This is our baseline and the opportunity for growth is only as limited as the available choice of apps and our budget.”

The event also featured expert guidance from Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer at Conga.

Edward Peck, co-founder of the International Asset Finance Network, said: “At the heart of these platforms is the understanding that the best specialist solutions can easily be grabbed, adding the best functionality, whatever is new and innovative.

“There is of course a lot of hype about what can be achieved, so it’s valuable to hear from the experts.”

The online seminar, supported by Q2 and Conga, is available to view on-demand here