Companies across industries like to boast that they listen intently to their customers and understand their every need. We don’t doubt they care about their customers, but can they truly put themselves in the shoes of their users? Do they really understand the challenges of doing the grunt work on a daily basis? 

We do. Because we’ve been there. Our team has actually been on the front lines of the lending industry in loan origination, underwriting, document production, loan file organization, and several other key positions. It’s that firsthand experience that has prompted us to develop meaningful solutions instead of flashy tech just looking for a pain point. 

It’s what led us to develop an entire platform built on empathy. 

Our Innovation Comes From Firsthand Experience

The SPARK platform belongs to our entire community. It wasn’t built by a small team of programmers shut off from the rest of the company. Every solution, every feature has a purpose, and many have a back story as to why they’re part of the SPARK solution. 

  1. The Lead Widget (Nick Elders)

Shortly after the Great Recession of 2008, the FinTech movement really spread its wings. Lenders were popping up overnight, promising quick capital and an easy process. While those promises came with a high price (the cost of capital), their methods of engaging the market were groundbreaking at the time — namely, lead capture. 

SPARK co-founder and CEO Nick Elders watched as FinTech companies built a stepped approach to filling the sales pipeline with digital inquiry forms that were easy to fill out, quick to complete, and informative enough to properly prepare sales reps. When Nick co-founded SPARK, he knew the lending community could benefit from the same process, which is why lead capture and management were built into the SPARK platform from day one.

  1. Statement Spreading (Tanner Bruhschwein)

The process of financial spreading has largely been a spreadsheet-driven task. Whether paper or electronic, an analyst typically does this manually to discover how a business performs and whether it can meet its debt obligations going forward. In the early days of SPARK, we knew this was a problem worth solving, but we lacked the domain expertise and experience in this area to develop a meaningful and integrated approach. 

Tanner Bruhschwein was working for a SPARK customer at the time, interacting with the platform on a daily basis to underwrite commercial loans. He was active in the SPARK community and continually suggested better and easier ways to improve the platform.  Today, he puts that experience to work as SPARK’s Director of Customer Success. Given his background in statement spreading and credit analysis, we immediately turned to Tanner to drive SPARK toward an integrated and streamlined spreading experience. Now, users are able to fully spread and analyze customer financials in the platform with the ability to see how those results appear in the full credit summary/presentation with one click.

  1. Dashboard Design (Bri Como)

Last year, after seven years of operation, we felt the design of the SPARK interface needed to evolve. Until that point, SPARK’s design had been engineer-led, meaning the design process was fully integrated with development so we could move quickly to implementation. We knew there was user experience expertise we could be utilizing, but we had prioritized feature rollout and active usage. 

Enter Briana (Bri) Como, SPARK’s Principal Product Designer. Bri’s first task was to work with the development and product team to completely redesign the SPARK dashboard experience. We had always wanted dashboards to be “home base” for users to launch their work from. Bri took concepts we really liked, including “My Work” and “Recent Work” links, the role-based homepage experience, and customizable widgets to expose certain data, and presented them to users for further research. The feedback she received led to the design team’s outstanding overhaul of the dashboard experience, complete with executive, manager, and personal views. We liked the new core design so much we implemented it on every page of the application, which includes more than 500 screens. Today, SPARK’s design and use patterns are 100% owned by the design team, and the feedback from the user community couldn’t be more positive.  

The SPARK Difference: Empathy

We’re immensely proud of our team’s continued innovation and thankful for the feedback we receive from users that helps shape our roadmap. But, we also recognize that features and ideas can always be copied. It’s our execution that makes the difference. We exercise empathy for our customers’ needs in a number of ways:

  • Our people. Our team has been on the other side of the screen. We have the unique ability to understand customer challenges because we’ve been in their shoes. But more than that, we hire passionate, innately curious, and empathetic people who listen intently to customer needs. 
  • Our savvy. Several of our employees come from a generation of digital natives. The others grew up right in the middle of the tech boom. As a result, we’re able to function as intermediaries and translators between modern and legacy tech. 
  • Our approach. We take a personal, hands-on approach to solving customer challenges and improving the platform. When we don’t know an answer or why a customer is making a request, we ask. Plus, we help them continue doing what they do today (only faster, better, and more efficiently) instead of forcing them toward transformation they’re not ready for. 

We’ve built these characteristics into our company core values of creativity, inclusivity, curiosity, integrity, and empathy. It’s only by prioritizing the first four that we can accomplish the fifth. As we go forward, regular communication with customers and a deep understanding of their needs will continue to guide our vision. With it, we’ll be able to continue building a solution that truly makes a difference. 

See what we’ve built (and enter a new era of loan origination) by requesting a demo today.  


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