The Making Of A Loan Decision

We at the NNDF look at a number of things when we make a decision to fund a loan application or not to fund a loan application. These things are generally called the C’s of credit.  Each “C” is weighted differently depending on the circumstances, however as a rule of thumb, all are taken into consideration and the stronger you are at each point the more likely the applicant will be successful at receiving funding.

Many lending institutions call them the 5 C’s of credit. They are: Credit History (character), Capacity, Collateral, Capital and Conditions.

Due to the unique nature of our region and history, we have narrowed this process down to what we call the 3 C’s. They are: Character, Capital/Collateral and Cash Flow (Capacity).

  • Character: This is just what it sounds like. This is not always a simple monetary calculation although much of the weight of the character portion of a credit analysis can come from a credit report and time on a job or time a person has owned a business. However, there are some other questions we will take into consideration that will help us reach an assessment of a borrower for this portion of the decision. Some other considerations that my help us assess the honesty and reliability to pay a debt may be:
    • How have they used credit cards or other forms of high cost financing? Do they understand the costs and are they willing to change behavior if it will help them? (They are asking us to make a financial commitment to them, are they willing to make behavioral changes for us?)
    • Do they pay their bills on time? We will often ask other lenders to see if the potential borrower is timely.  Then, unlike outside institutions, we will usually weigh some extenuating circumstances.  Was there a wildfire? Flooding? Medical issues?
    • Have they been at the same job or owned their business for a long period of time? Occasionally, we can look at an applicant and see that they have been in business for quite a long time and had one “bad year” and can show a good explanation for that down year. Things happen… But do they “happen a lot?”
    • Often this is a place where NNDF has provided some financial education or coaching. We have many applicants who have never been taught the importance of establishing and maintaining a good credit history.  If they have not, we then look at the applicant/client and ask if they are willing to learn that importance and do the things they need to do to begin to build good credit “character.”
  • Capital/Collateral: This is often a portion that is the weakest with our borrowers. However, it is also an area in which we can work with the applicant. Historically asset creation has been difficult in Indian country due to various reasons that are not always the fault of our borrowers. However, we still have our loan policies to guide us and those policies dictate that we have security for our loans. The security, or assets or collateral, generally need to match the amount of capital that is sought for the length of time it is sought.  For instance; will the collateral’s value last the entire term of a loan. It would not be fair to NNDF or the borrower to lend money on security that will have lost all or most of its fair market value before the end of the term of the loan thus leaving the borrower to be paying on something after it has reached the end of its life span. Some questions about capital/collateral are;
    • What property do you own that can secure a loan?
    • Is there a savings account?
    • Equipment?
    • Accounts Recievable?
    • And finally, if they have the requisite number of months at the same job we can use payroll deductions as a form of collateral for smaller loans.


  • Cash Flow (Capacity): Now that we know the borrower has good credit history or “good financial character” and we have a reasonable sense of collateral the next question is “can the borrower repay the debt.” Often borrowers believe if they just had $X.XX of dollars more they can “fix” their situation. However, that is not always the case. Because the new NNDF debt could, in the long run, place the borrower in a worse cash flow position than when they first came to us. We also must look at whether the borrower will be able to stay in their position long enough to actually “service” (make the required payments on) the new debt.

Generally, this is a mathematical question.  Some questions we will ask of the borrower are:

  • Is your job steady? Or is your business going to last long enough to service the debt? There have been times we have made smaller loans with much shorter terms or (balloon) payments that match their job or contract. And of course, if it is a contract then the contract obviously had to be more than enough to service the debt obligation.
  • How many other loan obligations do they have? This is another issue that many borrowers overlook or upon which they do not place enough value. If an applicant has many loan obligations already and we are simply adding to the list we have to know that the addition of our loan obligation will significantly improve their ability to service their other obligations as well as ours. We would not be helping them (or us) if we have placed the borrower in a position to not be able to pay all their obligations.
  • What are their current living expenses? Even for a business loan decision we must look at the applicant’s current living expenses. If their living expenses cause too much of a drain from the business at what point are they forced to make decisions between paying business debts or maintaining a particular lifestyle? Often times this is another point of education for a client. Owning a business, or taking on a personal loan, often requires difficult life choices. “Can I keep doing some of the extra-curricular things I enjoy if my monthly income is diminished by these new loan obligations?”

Most lending institutions will require that their applicants meet or exceed all the needs of the 3 C’s.  We at the NNDF serve a much different market. Often, we can work with a borrower if they fall short in one of these points IF we can see that the other two items are solid, AND they are willing to take the necessary steps to overcome that one bad credit factor.  If we must overlook two or more credit points, then the loan becomes increasingly difficult if not almost impossible.

PO Box 154 – Coulee Dam WA 99116 – (509) 633-9940

Download a copy of this process by clicking this link: Making A Loan Decision