and facilitate communication among its branch network, en-hancing visibility into the entire lending process for all parties. The bank wanted to leverage the advantages of technology to effectively expand the productivity of the lending departments. Beyond eliminating manual processes in favor of automation, partnering with Baker Hill ensured the right technology and data could be applied in meaningful ways to accomplish the bank’s growth objectives. In just over a year following the implementation of Baker Hill’s loan origination platform, Bank of the Cascades experi-enced a 30 percent increase in business loan applications. It pre-viously averaged 450 retail loan applications each month, which grew to nearly 750 monthly applications and continues to grow. Understanding that small businesses are the lifeblood of their communities, the bank is committed to delivering local business credit services to support local economies. To do so, improving its service to small businesses is an ongoing focus and effort. The bank found that Bank2Business immediately enabled its staff to react more quickly to incoming loan applications, but to also better cultivate those valuable relationships. During the same time frame, the bank reported a 43 percent increase in retail applications, reaching its highest volume processing to date for retail lending in Q4 2015. Lending is becoming increasingly competitive. Consumers have high expectations for speed, and likewise businesses need fast credit decisions; otherwise they will secure loans elsewhere. The functionality and strategic advice now available drive better, faster and less-risky lending decisions, and have helped the bank significantly grow its loan portfolio in just over a year. In many ways, Bank of the Cascades attributes its loan port-folio growth to the scalability that its new, unified solution af-fords. For example, by supporting multiple decision strategies and processes for business applications, the Bank2Business solution ensures the bank can manage the increased application volume without sacrificing customer service or risk manage-ment. Since implementing the platform, Bank of the Cascades also noted an improved ability to recognize opportunities to serve customers with new and additional loan products. One of the most positive changes Bank of the Cascades experienced as a result of deploying the loan origination plat-form was the creation of process standardization; in addition to infusing application processes with consistency, this simplifies employee training. Finding a user-friendly and intuitive solu-tion meant the bank could spend less time teaching employees a new system and instead place a greater focus on training and education that ultimately serves customers well. The bank now has loan-origination technology that em-ployees are comfortable with and believe in. This improves the team’s overall confidence and ensures the bank can emphasize credit training that helps the staff become better bankers. Rob Mate is senior vice president and retail lending group manager for Bank of the Cascades in Bend, Ore. For more information, visit www.bakerhill.com. ABA OBJECTs TO CFPB’s MANDATORY ARBITRATION PROPOsAL M andatory arbitration clauses would be prohibited in many contracts for consumer financial products and services under proposed rules for which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking comments. These widely used clauses leave consumers with no choice but to seek relief on their own — usually over small amounts, according to the CFPB. Hundreds of millions of consumer contracts such as bank ac-counts and credit cards are affected by mandatory arbitration clauses. These clauses typically state that either the company or the consumer can require that disputes between them be resolved by privately appointed arbitrators except for cases brought in small claims court. Where these clauses exist, either side can generally block lawsuits from proceeding in court. These clauses also typi-cally bar consumers from bringing group claims through the ar-bitration process. As a result, no matter how many consumers are injured by the same conduct, consumers must proceed to resolve their claims individually against the company, the CFPB argued. The CFPB said its proposal would open up the legal system to consumers so they could file a class action or join a class action when someone else files it. Companies would still be able to include arbitration clauses in their contracts; however, for contracts subject to the proposal, the clauses would have to say explicitly that they cannot be used to stop consumers from being part of a class action in court. The CFPB ProPosal would inClude: — Allowing groups of consumers to obtain relief if companies skirt the law. Most consumers do not realize when their rights have been violated, according to the agency, and often the harm may be too small to make it practical for a single consumer to pursue an individual dispute, even when the cumulative harm to all affected consumers is significant. — Incentivizing companies to comply with the law to avoid group lawsuits. Arbitration clauses enable companies to avoid being held accountable for their conduct, the CFPB argued, and when companies know they can be called to account for their misconduct, they are less likely to engage in unlawful practices. — Making the individual arbitration process more transparent by requiring companies that use arbitration clauses to submit any claims filed and awards issued in arbitration to the CFPB. The proposed rules would apply to most consumer financial products and services that the agency oversees, including those related to the core consumer financial markets that involve lending money, storing money and moving or exchanging money. Congress has already prohibited arbitration agreements in the largest market that the bureau oversees — the residential mortgage market. The American Bankers Association objected to the proposal in a statement by Rob Nichols, president and CEO.