An alternative to high-interest loans to support members in ne
According to a 2018 Federal Reserve Survey, 40 percent of Americans cannot financially withstand an unexpected $400 cash emergency such as car trouble or a broken appliance. In fact, a whopping 78 percent of U.S. employees live paycheck to paycheck (2017 CareerBuilder Report). The result is an ever-growing dependence on high-cost, short-term payday loans to cover unexpected expenses — often coming from lenders with predatory interest rates.
Meanwhile, during one of our monthly member experience surveys at Wescom – a Southern California institution since 1934 – we received a request from a long-term member who had an unexpected appliance repair need that was bound to set their financial balance into disarray. This member needed less than $500 to cover the cost of the repair and was hoping Wescom could offer a solution to meet her financial needs. Traditionally, a loan request – irrespective of the amount – requires a member to submit a comprehensive application and have the loan underwritten. We recognized immediately that there needs to be an easier way for members to borrow small amounts without going through the rigors of the traditional loan application process.
We suspected that her situation was not isolated, either. To determine if there was wider-spread need for this program, we assessed our membership transaction history. In doing so we identified approximately 1,300 members who had auto clearing house payments from their Wescom checking account to payday lenders. This affirmed the critical need for a quicker, less cumbersome solution for members who – with their backs against the financial wall – turn to payday lenders for unanticipated expenses or financial emergencies.
This soon led to the creation of our Quick Assist Loan program. This new personal loan offering provides Wescom members with short-term, small-dollar loans with no credit checks required. The program serves the important need of keeping our members’ accounts stable in times of financial strain. It also provides a more wholesome alternative to high-interest rate payday loans from outside vendors that often trap employees in cycles of financial instability.
Specifically, the Wescom Quick Assist Loan provides members with:
– Loan amounts ranging from $200 – $500
– A loan term of six months
– 0% interest rate
The Quick Assist Loan program is available to those age 18 and older who have been a Wescom member for three full calendar months (ranging from 90 to 120 days), have a direct deposit account for at least 90 days with a minimum average monthly deposit of $400, and who have submitted a $19 application fee for processing. Their account must be in good standing and they cannot have more than one Quick Assist Loan at a given time nor three Quick Assist Loans in a six-month rolling period.
Since its inception in May 2019, this program has already funded more than four dozen loans totaling nearly $23,500. Our goal is to help as many Wescom members as possible who are eligible for this program, so during everyday member conversations, our service representatives identify members in need and proactively offer the short-term loan program.
Because this program directly addresses the stress associated with borrowing from payday lenders at high interest rates, the Quick Assist Loan program is the latest manifestation of Wescom’s Purpose Statement, “To help Southern Californians build better lives,” and of our Mission Statement, “To exceed expectations in everything we do.”