CU Direct’s Digital Lending System Helps Drive Indirect Auto Loans


When Justin Olson joined Portland-based Trailhead Credit Union in 2013 as Vice President of Member Services, the credit union was facing an uphill climb. 

With a loan-to-share ratio of just 59 percent that was on a steady monthly decline, the $120M credit union was originating around $1 million per month in 2013. That wasn’t enough to improve that key measurement, and the Portland credit union was losing business to lenders that were providing a better customer experience. 

Trailhead had big plans to rebrand the credit union, recruit new members, and grow loans. However, Olson said inefficient processes stood in the way of that growth and his team’s ability to provide excellent member service. 

In particular, the loan process was extremely inefficient. Three different platforms were required for employees to take a loan from approval to funding.  

“They had to do the application on a worksheet, hand deliver it to an underwriter for approval, then go back to their desks, type all the loan docs by hand, print them out, get signatures, and fund the loan by right clicking,” Olson recalled. “It was a very long process. If you were doing it start to finish, even as quickly as possible, it was 45 minutes to an hour.” 

When Trailhead went shopping for a new loan origination system, Olson was disappointed to find that most solutions were too expensive for his shop. Then, the credit union’s CU Direct representative introduced him to Lending 360. 

CU Direct’s loan operating system was a perfect match for Trailhead’s growth goals. The biggest benefit has been Lending 360’s seamless integration with Trailhead’s Symitar core, which has drastically improved efficiencies.  

“Now, staff can click export and the loan is automatically onboarded onto our system,” Olson said. “No more manual entry. Not only is the process more efficient, it’s also cleaner. After all, the more steps involved, the more potential for errors.” 

Since implementing the system, Trailhead has increased loan originations by 79 percent, to nearly $2 million in new loans each month. And, the credit union’s loan-to-share ratio has improved to 70 percent. According to Olson, as a result of Lending 360 and other process improvements, membership has climbed from 4,800 members to nearly 9,000 in just five years.  

Olson said he wasn’t necessarily thinking that the LOS would grow new members, but the system’s new account opening platform has made the new member process a more efficient experience. It’s also made it a better experience, he said, because the efficiencies have allowed staff to take a breath while processing new members and their loans, and the system has allowed them to devote more time to delivering excellent service. 

Trailhead employees also like the system’s layout. “We use Outlook and Microsoft, so Lending 360’s format is very familiar and consistent with everything we do,” he said. 

CU Direct’s Lending 360 allows for customized workflows, automation, decision engine, and cross selling. In fact, Trailhead has customized the system so much, it even uses the consumer loan platform to process real estate loans.  

With improved efficiencies in place, the credit union is not only lean, it’s also a force to be reckoned with in its market, even when going up against large lenders.  

“We don’t have all the layers of approval that bigger shops do, so we are actually more efficient,” Olson said. “We’ve received a lot of referrals because members liked how quickly we got back to them and processed the loan. And, because staff isn’t manually entering loan information into the system, they can provide more responsive service to our members.” 

To learn more about your Association’s Strategic Partnership with CU Direct, contact Jason Smith, VP of Strategic Resources, at 

Posted in Business Solutions.