Truliant Federal CU to Rollout Zest AI Data-Driven AI/ML Lending Solution Geared Toward Inclusion

By W.B. King


In an effort to utilize existing data to make more informed, faster and fairer lending decisions, Truliant Federal Credit Union recently turned to an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solution.


“We are in the final stages and are continuing behind the scenes preparation in our decision engine for the next several weeks to validate the AI models,” said Alice Stevens, vice president of credit administration for the $3.8 billion Winston-Salem, N.C.-based credit union. She added that the credit union has been working on “rolling out” the solution and doing its due diligence for the past 18 months.

Alice Stevens

Stevens explained that the solution was developed by Zest AI. With the goal of increasing revenue, reducing risk and automating compliance, the Burbank, Calif.-based CUSO’s software helps lenders make better decisions and better loans, explained Zest AI Chief Operating Officer Dan Chiazza.


“The voice of the customer is of paramount importance to our innovation plans and product roadmap,” said Chiazza. “Our community of credit union partners influence how and where we innovate through focus groups, customer advisory boards and on-going feedback via our quarter business review channels.”


Chiazza explained that a new product update, born from the noted collaborative approach with credit union clients, is in the works.


“A customer recently expressed interest in a credit policy application to allow for quicker adjustments when certain economic conditions are met,” he said. “This idea is now on our product roadmap and we will iterate and test it with existing customers prior to commercialization.”


Zest AI, Chiazza further explained, enables credit unions to “move beyond legacy credit scoring methods to provide a more accurate picture of borrower risk by tapping the power of machine learning to approve loans safely and quickly.” Zest-built models, he added, draw on the “insights of thousands” of credit variables.


Using AI/ML to Fairly Determine Credit Worthiness


Supporting approximately 280,000 members at more than 30 member financial centers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, Stevens said Truliant Federal CU partnered with Zest AI to provide more community members with access to affordable loans, which she added is a “major priority” for the credit union.


“We’re excited to work with a firm like Zest that shares our passion,” Stevens noted.


By utilizing AI and ML, Zest AI’s solution allows organizations to quickly assess risk during the loan underwriting process. The lending platform, Zest AI’s CEO Mike de Vere offered, can provide near real-time approval using conventional and new data sources, which he noted “vastly reducing the time” involved in making lending decisions.


“Credit unions want to help their members efficiently,” said de Vere. “Better risk models automate decisions so that people get loans faster.”


Dan Chiazza

Generally, Chiazza explained that credit unions contact Zest AI for one of the following five reasons: the credit union is looking to improve the customer experience; the credit union would like to become more efficient during its lending process; the credit union would like to offer a fair and inclusive lending practice; the credit union would like to become more competitive in the market; and the credit union wants to increase loan performance.


It was a combination of these proposed benefits that attracted Truliant Federal CU.


“The solution adds an additional layer of sophistication to our lending models, and creates a faster lending experience that gives us much more data to pull from for making decisions around credit worthiness,” said Stevens.


Depending on the credit union’s infrastructure and related variables, Chiazza said the solution can be rolled out in roughly 90 days. He noted that his team is also in the process of “commercializing a solution for smaller credit unions,” so that “all credit unions and their members” can enjoy “the benefits of machine learning” in lending.


“We strive to make the process simple and easy for our credit union partners,” Chiazza said. “Zest does all of the heavy lifting including the data acquisition, model build, analysis, hosting and on-going maintenance and support.”


As Truliant Federal CU looks forward to launching the solution in the coming month, Stevens said, “The breadth and depth of the AI model will allow us to consistently and nearly instantly apply hundreds of underwriting criteria to our loan applications through all delivery channels to provide faster approvals to our members.”


And as more credit unions use the Zest AI solution, Chiazza believes the platform will expand its reach and be able to provide “a more holistic view of borrowers, allowing it to more confidently score new borrowers or those without formal credit histories and to offer more loans in underserved communities.”


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