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Looking Back, Looking Forward

Trace Ledbetter reflects on the lessons learned from this turbulent and unexpected year.

2020 Was All About Finding Opportunities Within the Challenges

The end of the year is typically a time to look back and reflect. Given the year 2020 has been, it’s tempting to skip that part! However, before looking ahead to 2021 it’s important to consider the lessons learned from this turbulent and unexpected year. By fully understanding what we did when faced with circumstances that were anything but normal, we can implement what we’ve learned to make our future even better and brighter than it would have been if the challenges of 2020 had never happened.

Rising to the Occasion

A highlight of this year has been witnessing our team’s ability to transition to a work-from-home environment incredibly quickly, maintain all service level standards, and with the business, our clients, and one another. Even with 93% of staff working remotely, we were still able to deliver quality scores greater than 95% in our Contact Center and in Document Processing. And when our clients needed it most, our best-in-class claims payment processes continued to deliver with by far the fastest payment times in the industry.

Working from home didn’t stifle creativity — it fueled ingenuity and allowed us to grow, excel, adapt, and achieve what we never thought would be possible if it had not been for necessity. The longer-term benefit of the shift in how we work will prove to be an expansion of remote work capabilities, a refinement of how our office space can serve as a centralized hub for collaboration and efficiency, and the value of a decentralized staffing model.

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

In addition to our regular departmental quality surveys, our Annual Survey of Service Quality has always been a strong point of pride for State National. We are the only portfolio protection provider to conduct this kind of regular quantitative analysis, and we use the results to refine our product offerings and continually improve service delivery to our clients. It takes extra investment and time to calculate performance, but these efforts pay dividends — year over year we have seen our scores rise, and in 2019 we achieved a stellar NPS score of +77.

Then, of course, the world turned upside down. We didn’t know what to expect from our 2020 survey results, but we did know that what our business partners think is more important now than ever before. How would our clients feel about how State National served them this year? Did we adapt quickly enough to meet their expectations? Did our service relationships continue to support their needs? Or would they even answer this year, given how much everyone has on their plate just trying to run their own businesses and serve their own customers?

State National’s Service Standards Remained Strong

We are still collecting and tabulating survey responses, and so far we are delighted that more than 70% of our customer base has taken the time to respond and provide feedback. Happily, early results indicate that our NPS performance is tracking ahead of past years. It is a clear indication that our team remains dedicated to understanding the needs of our clients, even if those needs are changing, and that we will do what it takes to meet those needs in every way possible.

Bill Gates once said, “In business, the idea of measuring what you are doing, picking the measurements that count like customer satisfaction and performance … you thrive on that.” I couldn’t agree more. Putting the customer first has always been a hallmark of our business, and it’s a core value that helped State National thrive in 2020.

I am continually impressed by the resilience and strength of the people around me. I have long believed that State National’s greatest assets are the people that make up this organization. Watching them address new, unexpected, unpredictable situations both personally and professionally — and choosing to meet and tackle those challenges head-on with strength creativity, and positivity — has reinforced my belief. I have never been prouder of our company and our people.

Continued Growth on the Horizon

With the delivery of multiple vaccines and a well laid out vaccination plan, there is much optimism for 2021. While the year to come will doubtless have its own challenges, they will be nothing like what we saw in 2020, and certainly nothing that can’t be overcome. When our core values remain our anchor, we are able to stay the course even when our way of life becomes unsettled and unpredictable.

It has been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. To everyone reading this message, I wish you a new year of creation, possibilities, and growth. Here’s to smoother sailing in the days ahead as we look forward to a great and prosperous 2021!

Trace Ledbetter
Trace Ledbetter
Trace Ledbetter is executive vice president at State National Companies, Bedford, Texas, where he directs and oversees delivery of all services and products for lender services, including customer relationship management, underwriting and claims.

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Amazing Things Happen When Female Executives Get Together

State National's Retreat Where Female Finance Executives Go to Network and Learn A 2021 report from CUNA indicated that 51% of CEOs at credit unions and 33% of credit union board members are female. Many organizations speak at length about the value of empowering and providing opportunities to women — yet this recognition must be met with action. For example, Kim Sponem, CEO of Summit Credit Union, took action by starting The Red Shoes initiative. Filene Research Institute actively creates research reports about women in credit union leadership. These are just two of many examples across the credit union industry. Missions like these are an important part of transforming the narrative of women and finance. State National Companies also recognizes the unique leadership traits and skillsets that female leaders bring to the financial services industry. To celebrate those traits and provide women leaders from across the country the opportunity to build relationships with their peers, we created our own initiative — an annual event called the Female Executive Networking (FEN) Retreat.   Why a Retreat Specifically for Female Executives? The goal of this annual retreat is multifold: Provide valuable, meaningful, and actionable education, information, and resources to senior credit unions and financial institutions executives that they can use to move their organizations forward. Create a forum for financial institution leaders from across the country to share best practices regarding leadership, retention, business growth, and operational excellence. Provide a rich and rewarding experience that organically allows connections and relationships to grow. Empower and inspire attendees to return to their financial institutions re-energized, with new ideas for accelerating the growth of their organizations. With these goals in mind, we launched our first FEN retreat in early 2020. And, oh, how critical it was for the female leaders who participated in this first event to achieve these goals — because at the time we didn’t realize were heading home to nearly two years of quarantine and isolation! A Most Welcome Return In 2021, after waiting 18 months from our launch date, we were more than eager to resume some sense of normalcy and held our second FEN Retreat. That year’s event featured Terri Trespicio, speaker, coach, and best-selling author of Unfollow Your Passion, as our keynote speaker and workshop leader. This year, our 2022 keynote workshop, titled How Macroeconomic Conditions Will Affect Your Financial Institution, Your Customers, and Your Household, was led by Marlena Lee, Ph.D., Global Head of Investment Solutions at Dimensional Fund Advisors, and Mary Ellen Krueger, Director, Wealth Management and Partner at Aspiriant. Not only are these FEN retreats educational, inspirational, and just plain fun, we at State National are also proud of being a part of the movement to empower even more women to lead in moving the credit union mission forward. After all, studies show that more female executives in a C-suite role can improve both customer orientation and financial performance. That’s a win-win-win — for credit unions, for their members, and for women in financial leadership. If you are interested in learning more about State National’s Female Executive Networking retreat, please contact your State National Client Executive or Regional Vice President.   Comments from FEN attendees:

With Custom QR Codes, It’s Now Even Easier for Your Borrowers to Upload Their Insurance!

State National brings back QR codes — now new and improved!   When was the last time you scanned a Quick Response (QR) code? Was it on a restaurant menu, on a real-estate sign, or maybe to access a form? The reliable QR code has now become a part of our daily life. In our mobile-first technology era, QR codes are back, giving consumers instant access anywhere to the targeted information you want to provide them. There is no need to keep pamphlets in stock or worry about your customers going to the wrong website when scrolling past noisy ads on search engines. While State National has offered our clients the ability to have QR codes on their borrower notices before, there was not a real demand for them until the recent increase in use sparked by the pandemic. With increased consumer receptiveness to these abstract squares and State National’s dedication to constant improvement, we are harnessing the power of QR codes again — adding on improved customizations that make it even easier for borrowers to submit their insurance when they take out a new loan or have a lapse in coverage. "We appreciate having a good vendor partner that understands your needs sometimes before you even know you have a need. State National is always looking for ways to make things better for your staff as well as your leadership.” – JAX Federal Credit Union QR Codes for Borrower Notices Borrowers can scan their personalized QR code on their mailed paper notice and be directed straight to their personal account on MyLoanInsurance.com. On this borrower-friendly site they can view their insurance status and easily provide updated proof of insurance. Since the QR code on each borrower’s notice is specific to them, no reference ID or PIN is needed, and the webpage will automatically populate with their name and vehicle type. A helpful short video applicable to their particular situation will instruct them on exactly what they need to provide to resolve their specific impairment. And finally, the site will also show them how to easily upload and submit their information. Our borrower-specific QR codes personalize the website borrowers are directed to, including details such as informing them if the lien holder is missing or if their deductible is too high.   QR Codes for Lenders Lender custom QR codes are another way we provide total access and empower your borrowers to easily update their insurance with us before they even enter our notice cycle. These institution-specific lender QR codes can be used anywhere you choose, including your website, lender agreement, and loan closing documents. Borrowers who scan your custom lender code are directed to a MyLoanInsurance.com page branded with your financial institution’s name and logo. From here, borrowers can upload insurance even if they do not know their access PIN.   Pro Tip: Add Your Lender QR Code to Your Lender Agreement to Prompt New Borrowers to Submit Their Insurance We encourage you to add your custom QR code in your new loan packet and actively point it out to borrowers when they take out a vehicle or home loan. Let your borrowers know they can scan that QR code to quickly and easily provide their insurance details. The visual effect of having the QR code on the agreement packet reminds the borrower to take action, and as soon as the website pops up, it tells them exactly what they need to do to update their insurance. MyLoanInsurance.com is accessible 24/7, so borrowers with missing information or a lapse in coverage can update their insurance at any time, at their convenience.   Scan Here for an Example of a Lender QR Code Leading by Always Improving Since 1973, State National has been dedicated to a culture of continuous improvement. We are proud to be the technology leader in our industry, and are consistently evolving to make portfolio protection easier, faster, and more user-friendly for your borrowers and your staff. We are glad to provide our lenders with these customized QR codes as the latest feature to make the process even more seamless and convenient. Borrower QR codes are already actively employed on all mailed notifications. To find out more about getting your own customized lender QR code, contact your Client Executive today!

Tackling Inflation and the Auto Industry Part 2: Maintaining Your Competitive Edge

Inflation is squeezing businesses and consumers alike. Perhaps the easiest industry in which to spot the consequences of financial stress is the automotive industry. How can you maintain a competitive advantage while also protecting your portfolio in this market? Read on to find out.   Spotlight Soundbite: Maintaining Your Competitive Edge During Auto Industry Inflation   Consumers Are Facing Post-Pandemic Financial Stress The government’s stimulus checks have long run out, as have the grace periods many financial institutions implemented at the beginning of the pandemic. Many individuals have returned to work and are again bearing the costs of gas, transportation, childcare, and other employment-related expenses. With many Americans increasingly financially strapped, what does this mean for lenders? Unfortunately, prices are soaring and may continue to rise. 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As financial institutions are providing loans for vehicles with a hyper-inflated value, it’s likely they will see an increase in bad debt as those loans start to default to historic norms and possibly higher. Without proper risk mitigation measures in place, if the collateral sustains damage or loss when a borrower is uninsured or underinsured, the financial institution making the loan can also find itself “upside down,” so to speak, with the claims amount received insufficient to cover its exposure. Not all is lost, however — financial institutions with a high-quality portfolio protection insurance program will experience relief from a significant amount of this bad debt. Not only will this critical protection keep your borrowers covered, it will also safeguard your balance sheet.   Insurance Tracking Also Helps Lenders Manage Risk In addition to the protection provided by the insurance coverage, lenders can also use the detailed borrower insurance tracking in the program to assess and mitigate risk. High-quality, real-time tracking allows lenders to leverage knowledge of a borrower’s lack of coverage as an indicator of when a loan may be at a higher risk of default. This early warning sign provides an opportunity to initiate preventive steps to work with those borrowers to avoid collections, as well as take proactive measures to step up early collections efforts.   How a Program with State National Tackle Inflationary Hardships We can help as you are undergoing a double squeeze from tighter net interest margins. In addition to decreasing your charge-offs, here are a few of the relevant ways our program supports you no matter the storm. Our partners have full transparency and access to immediate real-time data with InsurTrak, the industry’s only system built from scratch specifically for CPI. It’s your single sign-on source of truth for insurance tracking, claims, and reporting, resulting in maximum ease, speed, and transparency. With your loan portfolio data at your fingertips, accessible instantly all in one place, it's easy and quick to identify trends and potentially at-risk borrowers. Our internal infrastructure is supported by our parent company Markel, a $33 billion Fortune 500 company, which has been proudly rated “A” (Excellent) by AM Best for many decades and is regarded as an industry leader. Our combined tenure, strength, and expertise translate to unmatched peace of mind and security for our partners. Our Claims Advisory Recovery Services (CARS) boosts your bottom line by mitigating your auto portfolio losses, reducing your internal expenses, and giving you more time to spend servicing your borrowers. 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To read the first article in this SNC Spotlight series, Tackling Inflation and the Auto Industry, visit: Protecting Your Credit Union from Car Market Volatility