A Day in the Life
A Day in the Life of Loan Guarantee Operations
with Nancy Miller, Assistant Manager of Loan Guarantee Operations
Purpose and Mission
The purpose of Loan Guarantee Operations is to provide TG's guarantee of Federal Stafford, PLUS, and Consolidation loans. In today's world, since automation has significantly streamlined the loan guarantee process, the team's work consists primarily of problem resolution and customer contact.
Given that, team members are customer service oriented, have positive attitudes, and understand TG's mission of enabling students to achieve their dreams of getting a postsecondary education. They are also analytical and have strong backgrounds in loan processing and other areas of the student financial aid industry.
In addition to working on guarantee requests, Loan Guarantee Operations has the business ownership of or relationship to the corporate projects that affect the front-end system, the Loan Guarantee Processing System, and TG's school-based software product, AdvanTG. As business owners, Loan Guarantee Operations coordinates the enhancements, maintenance, and monitoring of the business issues related to federal regulatory requirements and industry standards for these projects.
Nancy Miller explains, "We're here quietly in the background making sure that things flow through smoothly with the least amount of interruption to our customers. The work, as a result, is rewarding and meaningful."
Impact and Interaction
Loan Guarantee Operations impacts a wide variety of customers—from borrowers who know nothing about the loan process and require extra patience, to more sophisticated borrowers, schools, and lenders, who require specialized expertise. Regardless of the customer's degree of industry knowledge, the team's goal is to treat each customer the same—with the care and respect they deserve.
The first encounter borrowers have with a TG representative is often with a Loan Guarantee Operations team member. In some cases, after their initial contact with the school financial aid office, borrowers contact Loan Guarantee Operations before contacting their lender.
Nancy says, "We're the first team borrowers are going to talk to at TG. It's really important that we demonstrate our commitment to help them and answer their questions. So, part of what we do is lay the groundwork, both the foundation and expectation, for future customer service. We set the bar—the initial bar—for those expectations." As such, Loan Guarantee Operations representatives strive to provide individualized service to their customers, always being cognizant of how the quality of each individual's service impacts all parties in the loan guarantee process.
Schools initiate the majority of applications, using TG's tools. They trust that TG is taking care of them, especially during peak seasons (see Know-How, below). Nancy likens the team to a clean-up crew, tidying things up for the student.
Barbara Peyton of Barry College declares, "TG is wonderful to work with. Loan Guarantee Operations makes my life wonderful. Any time I have a problem with a particular loan, TG will fix it and it's done in a day. It makes me happy to be able to get right back to a student or parent with an answer. I'll even call Nancy when I have questions concerning how a particular process is done or just general questions so I can understand how the guarantor works in the loan process." Educating the customer, other TG team members, and TG as a whole is yet another aspect of the team's impact on the loan guarantee process.
This same kind of service applies to lenders. After TG and the school have completed their parts in the process, the cycle continues with the lender.
Nancy describes the progression, "It's like a tight circle—it [the loan] starts with the school, goes to the guarantor, then the lender, and back to the school. All of us that are part of this tight circle know that the process happens so fast that it's almost transparent to the borrower." Lenders rely on TG, and especially Loan Guarantee Operations, to make the process as fast and fluid as possible.
Nancy points out that the team's biggest task is handling exceptions that come in the form of application rejects. TG averages a 3 to 4 percent application reject rate, which can seem like a lot to schools when classes are starting and everyone is anxiously waiting for loan funds.
Most schools don't have time to look at their rejects on a detail level and so Loan Guarantee Operations helps to resolve them instead. These exceptions are solved quickly, usually within one hour, with overnight rejects handled the next morning. "We take care of the things that are the exceptions," as Nancy explains. "If the application rejects, one of our primary roles is to take a hard look at that reject—and to do that quickly—so we can make a determination on how to resolve it or know who to contact to resolve it."
TG offers customer-centric guarantee exception processing, and the vast majority of TG's school clients consistently affirm their appreciation for this and their desire to retain this model. By providing up-front guarantee edits, customer risk for ineligible loans is reduced. Customers also benefit from having a single point of contact for all guarantee and disbursement related queries, and customers benefit from a reduced workload due to TG's personalized problem resolution services.
In TG's model, Loan Guarantee Operations provides a wide range of loan guarantee services and is a source of information and assistance for schools from application through disbursement. In a less proactive scenario, TG would become aware of the loan only after it had been disbursed, and schools, lenders, and borrowers would have to make multiple contacts to find information or resolve problems.
While finding resolutions to loan guarantee rejects may be one of the team's primary responsibilities, other tasks are a part of the day in the life of Loan Guarantee Operations. For example, the team maintains demographic information on borrowers generally throughout the life of the loan. They also facilitate loading Consolidation loan information to the TG database.
Loan Guarantee Operations receives hundreds of daily inquiries that come via , fax, and—of course—phone calls. Nancy says, "We are in the middle of all of this—answering inquiries—and quickly resolving anything that's pending, so the student or parent will get their money or other services they require." Team members are problem solvers, and in some cases, technical consultants to TG's customers. "We all stop and help the customer—that's the most important thing on our agenda each and every day."
The team gets help from internal partnerships to field the more complex questions that arise. One such partner is Customer Assistance, upon which Loan Guarantee Operations relies to answer questions that are outside of the team's purview. Nancy says, "We can transfer a student or customer to [Customer Assistance] with confidence. They are great folks who know about the front-end process and issues like closed school, interest statements, Texas Tomorrow Fund, or whatever questions a customer may have that are not loan-guarantee related."
Loan Guarantee Operations also relies on TG's Policy and Regulatory Affairs to help when policy issues come up. If a customer has a recurring issue that requires further assistance, the team may also contact Customer Services to provide the customer with one-on-one assistance or training.
The team's partnership with Product Support exemplifies the give and take collaboration that is truly a TG hallmark. Product Support provides Loan Guarantee Operations with answers to technical questions and provides answers to customer questions as well. Team members act as screeners for technical calls, ferreting out what the customer needs and then forwarding those inquiries to Product Support. This is just one more way Loan Guarantee Operations helps TG's customers to hurdle obstacles.
Mashay Taylor, Senior Business Analyst and Aurora Wilson, Business Analyst, have the responsibility, as a large part of their day-to-day duties, to make sure that the underlying systems are working and being enhanced by conducting analysis, producing designs, and testing the front-end projects, ultimately ensuring that the required projects are completed on time. Mashay and Aurora answer inquiries and take suggestions from internal and external customers that involve technological issues impacting the front-end system. Additionally, they provide technical support and help Loan Guarantee Operations representatives stay technologically savvy. They also ensure that TG's products and services match up with evolving technologies.
Kyle Smith, Assistant Vice President/Manager of Loan Guarantee Operations, is the CommonLine business owner and makes the high level decisions concerning the business issues related to the front-end projects. In addition, she is a member of the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs (NCHELP) Electronic Standards Committee where she represents TG on that committee's Change Transaction Advisory Team.
While technology has made certain functions easier in terms of manual work, it's made things harder in other ways. Nancy explains, "Now that the more mundane kind of work of guaranteeing loans has virtually gone away, it's become more important for team members to know how to deal with more complex problems, especially system issues. It is increasingly important for representatives to understand emerging technologies and the resulting changes in customer needs."
Nancy feels that excellent communication is an asset that TG and Loan Guarantee Operations strive to utilize and that is critical to the team's success. She sees communication as the team's lifeblood, and as she eloquently puts it, "Communication is like arteries that flow through the body; if the arteries are closed off, the body dies." Loan Guarantee Operations knows the benefit of great communication, with its customers, other team members, and within the team itself.
Raising the Bar
As mentioned earlier, Loan Guarantee Operations sets the bar for TG's customer expectations. Then, the team sets high goals for itself by raising the bar every year. Its team members do this by continually streamlining, working smarter and faster, and utilizing corporate-wide expertise, internal resources, and tools. Great support from a number of individuals allows Loan Guarantee Operations to be the standard bearer not only for great loan guarantee service but also for the excellent customer service for which TG is known within the industry.
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