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Leaders in Lending | Ep. 49

How to Approve More Borrowers & Lower the Cost of Lending with AI

On this episode of Leaders In Lending, Margie Click, President & CEO at Agriculture Federal Credit Union, joins us to discuss how lending practices have transformed for the better with the advent of AI.

MArgie CLick-modified


Margie Click 

Margie Click has served as AgFed's President and CEO since 1997 with the philosophy, "If you treat your members and your team well, you will succeed." Margie can often be found helping others solve problems in addition to her other duties. In her own words, "you just roll up the sleeves, and do the work."



AgFed began in 1934, in Washington, D.C., and now serves individuals nationwide. AgFed offers mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, checking, and a wide range of other accounts with its members'​ interests always in mind. AgFed is federally insured by NCUA and is an equal housing lender. The credit union has  $326 million in assets, over 25,000 members and eight branches.


Key Topics Covered

  1. The 4 C's of lending & creditworthiness
  2. Finding the right fintech partner
  3. Seizing the opportunity in unsecured personal loans
  4. The evolution of fraud


The lending landscape has endured massive transformation over the years.

In the past, underwriting systems were rigid and restrictive, serving only a select population of consumers.

With the advancement of AI and machine learning, all of that is changing.

On this episode of Leaders In Lending, Margie Click, President & CEO at Agriculture Federal Credit Union, joins us to discuss how lending practices have transformed for the better with the advent of AI.

You’ll learn about…

  • The 4 Cs of lending & creditworthiness
  • Finding the right fintech partner
  • Seizing the opportunity in unsecured loans
  • The evolution of fraud

Enabling More Inclusive Lending with AI

In the past, criteria for creditworthiness would vary from lender to lender and were largely subject to human bias. Additionally, if borrowers were eligible for one product and not another, they would often be denied for both – showcasing how credit scores fail to paint a full picture of creditworthiness. With the emergence of AI, new forms of data can be better leveraged to assess creditworthiness beyond the three digits of a credit score.

According to Margie Click, President and CEO of Agriculture Federal Credit Union (AgFed), with AI-driven underwriting processes, AI is enabling fairer, more inclusive credit decisioning. “It's not only more efficient, but I think in a sense, it can be considered much more fair,” says Click.

Now, more individuals are getting better priced loans through their preferred digital channels, whereas before, they would have needed to transact solely in-branch and likely be given very high rates for a loan or denied altogether.

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating members’ preferences for digital and increasing need for unsecured personal loans for quick access to capital, credit unions have been pushed to reinvent their borrowing practices.

“Either you're going to fight the change, or you're going to embrace it and run with it,” says Click, “and we’ve chosen to embrace it.”

Managing risk

With AI at the forefront of automating and optimizing old systems, fraud has become a growing concern in the growing digital landscape. While the digitization of the lending process has helped remove human error, it’s created more opportunities for fraudulent activity.

In order to combat it, Click says, “you still need some human interaction at some point or some cases”.

While fingerprint requirements and periodic manual reviews are also some tools used to monitor potential fraud, credit unions that have deeper member relationships are better equipped to prevent fraud.

It’s much more difficult to understand a consumer’s risk if there’s been no initial contact or existing track record. However, if a credit union has worked with an individual for a while and they’re familiar with their deposit and loan patterns, it’s easier to conceptualize that risk.

According to Click, “it’s really important to have a very tight integration. One of the reasons we haven't done a lot of outsourcing of staff on our operations side is being able to learn quickly on the product and automation. It's a very tight feedback loop to effectively find and stop those kinds of attacks”.

Embracing fintech partnerships and new technologies

AgFed is embracing the change by partnering with fintechs to develop new ways to serve more people. AI and machine learning enable more intelligent credit decisioning without increasing risk. 

According to Click, the vast majority of people within a subprime pool of loans, will repay their loans. With this knowledge, designing a model that will approve more people can not only improve access to capital, but also lower the rates for the average consumer.

If credit unions can approve more people while lowering the cost of borrowing, they’re not only empowered to exceed their current members’ expectations, but attract net new members as well.

Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast.


Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast