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Nancy Feig
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Core Processor Conversion Leads Columbia Banking System To Adopt Fiserv easyLENDER

Amid a core conversion, Columbia Banking System updates loan origination with easyLENDER.

In the process of converting to a new core system, Tacoma, Wash.-based Columbia Banking System, the holding company for Columbia State Bank ($1.87 billion in assets) and the Bank of Astoria ($157 million in assets), realized that it needed a new loan origination system to go along with its new back end. "Our core processor handled both the loan and deposit side," explains Andy McDonald, Columbia Banking System's chief credit officer. "[It was] quite old, and took a roomful of programmers to launch new products."

Columbia Banking System began looking for a new core system in 2003 to replace its Metavante (Milwaukee) legacy system and in late 2004 selected Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Precision Computing Systems, a Fiserv (Brookfield, Wis.) company, for the core conversion, according to McDonald. However, he says, the company's legacy loan origination system, Harland Financial Services' (Atlanta) LaserPro, did not have the ability to integrate with the new core system. Implementation of the Precision Computing core system was completed in February 2006.

In mid-2005, the bank holding company began exploring Fiserv's easyLENDER, an automated loan origination and processing software solution that offered synergies with the Precision Computing core system. While Columbia Banking System did evaluate other vendors, according to McDonald, no other product offered the core-integration capabilities of easyLENDER. Interfacing with the core system using another vendor's solution would have cost significantly more money, he adds. "The most compelling argument [for easyLENDER] is the interface [with our core], so when the lender starts entering data, that data is saved and nobody has to enter it again," McDonald says.

Columbia Banking System's implementation was a test case of sorts for Fiserv's easyLENDER. "When easyLENDER came to us as a solution, their product was designed for mortgage and consumer lending, but we do larger commercial and industrial loans and larger real estate transactions," McDonald relates, pointing out that Fiserv was responsive in adding electronic signature capabilities and the more-sophisticated underwriting required for the bank's loan operations.

"The implementation for easyLENDER is not all that difficult," McDonald says, although he adds that the process was complicated by the simultaneous core conversion. "In hindsight, it might have been better to stage the conversions." Still, the conversion to easyLENDER, which started in late 2005, took just 90 days, and the new loan origination system went live in mid-February 2006, McDonald notes.

The bank sent a handful of staff members to the easyLENDER headquarters in Lake Mary, Fla., for train-the-trainer sessions, McDonald continues. Back at the bank, everyone using the system then received four hours of training. After that, easyLENDER support staff came to the bank for ad hoc training, he says.

EasyLENDER has made every part of the loan documentation process more efficient and has sped up processing, McDonald asserts. And the longer the product has been in use, the better the results. For example, in September 2006, the bank could process a loan documentation in 673 minutes, according to McDonald; less than six months later, in February 2007, the cycle time was down to 497 minutes. "Even though we are a year down the road, we haven't mastered its capabilities, so we continue to get better," he says.


Institution: Columbia Banking System (Tacoma, Wash.), holding company for Columbia State Bank and the Bank of Astoria.

Assets: Columbia State Bank -- $1.87 billion in assets, Bank of Astoria -- $157 million in assets.

Business Challenge: Implement loan origination system that integrates with new core system.

Solution: Fiserv's (Milwaukee) easyLENDER software.

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