5 MBL Habits to Hone

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Ancin Cooley, CIA, CISA Photo
Synergy Credit Union Consulting

3 minutes

Key skills help member business lending underwriters raise their game

We’ve all had experiences that remind us that technical prowess in a profession doesn’t always equate with overall success. Consider the doctor who loses business because his bedside manner is too gruff or the sales associate whose overbearing personality meets customers 20 feet before he does.

These are easy examples to visualize and yet the point is a hard one for many professionals to take: You can’t be great at what you do if you aren’t also great at how you do it: How do you deliver tough messages? How do you negotiate and lead change? How do you build trust and credibility?

If you don’t know, it’s time to ask, because technical agility isn’t enough. Great underwriters don’t skimp on strengthening soft skills; they proactively hone key habits that position them as invaluable resources and advisors to their senior management team.

Five Habits with Instant Impact

Great loan reviewers:

  1. Possess technical strength. At the end of the day, providing a sound analysis and compliance review is the chief responsibility of a good loan reviewer. The role couldn’t function without it—there would be no assurance that risks were properly graded and managed if not completed by someone with superior technical and regulatory know-how. Yet, while this is a primary requirement of the role, it often overshadows the other traits that can separate good reviewers from great ones.
  2. Cultivate curiosity to get behind the numbers. The ability to look deeper to analyze and synthesize what’s happening behind the numbers is the hallmark of every great reviewer. Successful reviewers are inquisitive. For them, changes in ratios from period to period offer prompts for deeper questions. Great loan reviewers go beyond elevator analyses to tell the greater story, sharing the salient points that matter most to those making decisions.
  3. Use emotional intelligence to build strong relationships. Knowing when to pull back, lean in, speak or listen has much to do with emotional intelligence. Great loan reviewers build trusted partnerships by taking off their technical “hat” and empathizing with their stakeholders (loan officers and senior management). They are passionate about the big-picture risks and challenges that impact the health and profitability of the institution. They also know that they are much more likely to influence change from inside the “circle of trust,” rather than as a distanced advisor.
  4. Say—and write—it with a smile. There’s no faster way to shut down productive dialogue and damage goodwill than through terse messages. Tone often gets lost in email: Know when to pick up the phone or discuss topics in person. Take time to craft messages carefully and strategically, knowing that how a message is sent is as important as the message itself—sometimes even more so. Making wise communication choices can mitigate resistance and create support for your ideas and perspectives.
  5. Play well with others. Working well with formal and informal teams is key to succeeding at most things in life. Put another way, everyone knows the temperaments in an office. Great MBL underwriters strive to be known as flexible, likable, go-to resources who welcome others to seek and share information freely. They work hard to establish reputations as approachable, not adversarial, resources.

Like any, these habits take time to perfect. But though it takes time to create lasting practices, these behaviors can have an immediate impact on your day-to-day interactions, relationships, and institutional objectives—today. This very meeting, email, coffee chat, moment.

And, who knows?  You might just find your calendar filling up with tee times.

Ancin Cooley, CIA, CISA, is the founder and principal of Synergy Credit Union Consulting, Inc. Synergy specializes in providing MBL administration support to credit unions through a credit analysis and appraisal review service. For more information and a complimentary MBL Toolkit, contact Ancin Cooley at

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