For over forty years I earned my salary sitting across the desk from loan applicants. One thing I know, it paid to look beyond the customerís facade. Sometimes I did not look close enough.
Take John (not his real name). He only needed a small loan to get his wife out of the hospital. His credit was excellent and his employer verified his supervisory position. Loan approved, for this middle-aged guy missing two digits of his right index finger.
A week later a man telephoned to say he received a coupon book in the mail but had never borrowed from us. I asked him to come in. When he did I soon confirmed his look-alike twin brother had committed fraud. Amazingly, both were missing the same finger joints. The scoundrel that got the money was on parole from prison for forgery. Although he had changed the name on his driverís license to his brotherís name, the number on the license was the paroleeís. Early in my career I failed to perceive body-language and other clues that might have kept me from making this loan.
More money is stolen by fraud from banks than ever goes out the door at the end of a gun barrel. A consistently inattentive loan officer will soon be making a career change.
On one occasion a man applied for a loan offering his vehicle as collateral. We stepped out to see the car. It was in excellent condition and he only wanted about half its value. Fortunately, when I inspected the vehicle I wrote down the VIN number. When he gave me his clear title it had a different number. He couldnít understand how that could be. He promised to return when he got it straightened out.
Something bothered me. On a hunch I called a nearby auto dealership and learned he had borrowed the car for a test drive. A trip by his house confirmed my suspicion: a totaled vehicle, the same make and model as the one he had test driven, sat in the driveway. The title he offered me was to the wrecked car. If I had made the loan, the repossession of a junk vehicle was highly probable.
Individuals occasionally asked for help filling out a loan application. Most often they had forgotten their glasses, or so they said. Eventually I realized many were illiterate. Some were successful businessmen with a good hip-pocket feel for running their businesses. They were embarrassed to admit they could not read. Let me tell you, there are a lot more than you might think and some are as fine an individual as you will ever meet.
With commercial loans, examination of sources and uses of income is often the tool that indicates a house of cards about to collapse. If there are more sources of money than uses, the imbalance must be resolved. If they donít balance, money has disappeared from the company. Small business owners are occasionally unaware of problems within their business. Sometimes they are the problem. The same dollar can be lost to incompetence as to fraud, and judgment is required of the loan officer.
Trust, but verify: this procedure confirms financial faithfulness, or lack thereof. Customer fraud, loan officers making bogus loans, tellers mishandling funds, improper handling of fund raising accounts in civic organizations, all these are revealed by observing this mandate. Every organization that handles money should follow this practice, including churches. How disappointing it is when corruption is uncovered.
The saddest words I ever heard came from the young son of a long time customer. When I asked about his father he replied, ďDad wasnít the man we thought he was.Ē He fooled his family and left hurting hearts in his wake.
Bankers often have a view of individuals not shared by the majority within the community. It is a cheerless picture when a person or family with luxury cars and a fabulous house is living an unsupportable life style. The perception is they are wealthy when the truth is they are bankrupt.
There is a question every Christian needs to ask: would an examination of my check book reflect a life style pleasing to God? God knows, and sometimes so does your banker.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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