Utilizing Technology, Streamlining Processes

Technology is a vital tool for nearly every business to maintain an efficient workflow. The Cooperative Finance Association is embracing and utilizing technology to deliver its products and services completely electronically, streamlining the process for its members as it serves as a reliable lender for the agricultural industry.

CFA was established in 1943. Today, it has approximately 200 members, consisting of other agricultural cooperatives throughout the United States. CFA products include operating and term loans, single-purpose inventory financing and point-of-sale production agriculture financing.

Currently, CFA is undertaking a technology platform update, which will prioritize the security of its customers while making the application easier to navigate on all devices. The association also modernized its signature collection process—now allowing co-op customers to obtain customer signatures electronically— which was an imperative shift during COVID-19. Additionally, CFA has cut down tremendously on its use of paper, creating a more sustainable business model for future generations.

Despite utilizing an all-electronic delivery model, CFA recognizes and adapts to its unique and traditional membership.

“Most financial providers are abandoning in-person services, but we still support and encourage all types of contact with our customers,” said Ross Johnson, CFA’s CEO. “We provide the technology platform to service the loans, but our cooperative employees are still customer-facing. Most of the co-ops we service still appreciate phone calls and face-to-face interactions. And we value the relationships we have built with the local co-ops and their team members.”

CFA strives to craft specific programs and lending solutions for its co-op members so they can be successful, making an impact within their own communities and strengthening rural America. CoBank is there every step of the way to assist CFA on its mission.

“CoBank’s customers are some of our own customers. And as a fellow cooperative, CoBank understands our structure. They are so supportive, knowledgeable and most importantly, aligned with our mission. We are connected— CoBank supports us, and in turn, we are able to support our customers. A commercial lender would not be as invested or open-minded,” Johnson said.

CoBank and CFA have worked together for nearly 50 years. Recently, CoBank provided a $450 million line of credit to CFA, which allowed the association to offer larger term financing packages to its members.

“We really pride ourselves on finding ways to say ‘yes’ before we have to say ‘no’. We share communities with our members and their success is our success. And we can offer more loans with the help of CoBank. It’s a symbiotic relationship that we are proud of,” said Johnson.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2022 Annual Report.