AK Patel

LendSmart, an infant mortgage-origination fintech, was active in the 2020 iteration of the Independent Community Bankers of America’s ThinkTech Accelerator in Little Rock, Ark., until the program got cut short due to the coronavirus. LendSmart is a digital solution for community banks that allows every player in the mortgage origination process — the lender, the borrower, the underwriter and the real estate agent — to communicate, access relevant documents, and be on the same page throughout the homebuying process.

The founder and CEO of LendSmart, AK Patel, compared the AI platform to a Facebook group. There are messages sent every step of the process, and chat groups to communicate about tasks that must be completed. The small fintech had been working with nine banks to launch the system. But many have gotten cold feet, stalled the launch, and turned their attention to crisis management.

Once community bankers leapt to meet the demand of Paycheck Protection Program applications, LendSmart’s team of 12 collectively put in more than 1,500 hours of work in eight days to develop a digital solution for community banks facilitating PPP loans, based off of the Facebook-group blueprint of the mortgage origination software. 

The pandemic has opened up everyone’s eyes to the need for digital solutions, Patel said, whose prospective users are banks with between $350 million to $20 billion in assets. Some of these banks were taking PPP applications over email, realizing small business borrowers didn’t have scanners for their documents. Something as simple as signing a document needed an e-sign solution.

The PPP lending platform by LendSmart was up and running with the Bank of Charles Town, W.Va., and testing with a handful of others by April, in time to help with both waves of federal PPP funding.

Devika Darbari, the chief operating officer at a small business tech company in New York, posted on her LinkedIn page that her $515 million bank helped her get her PPP loan approved and funded “in record time.” Darbari called the service impeccable, “and the tech they used to help process our application was so user friendly and intuitive,” she wrote.

The digital solution allowed the lender, the borrower, the originator and anyone involved in the application to see exactly where the loan was in the process and was submitted directly to the SBA E-Tran portal, requiring no extra work on the part of the lender. 

“We went from completing the application in under 20 minutes to being funded in just under two weeks. Amazing,” Darbari wrote.

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