Don Bennett first began thinking about how computers could be more widely used in the banking industry when he wrote his thesis on the topic as a student of the Pacific Coast Banking School over 20 years ago. After graduation, Don applied his knowledge of computers to his own banking practices during a decades-long career as a community banker in Montana’s Flathead Valley. He had great ideas for software platforms that could make lending much more efficient and user-friendly, but lacked the deep knowledge of software development required to make it happen. In 2000, he serendipitously met programmer Ed Holt who heard Don’s idea and knew he could make it happen. Don remembers knowing the two had a recipe for success on their hands:
“I had all the banking expertise, and Ed had the coding skills and vision for how to design the program’s interface - it was a business match made in Heaven.”
In 2005, Don followed his entrepreneurial motivations and founded Freedom Bank in Columbia Falls while the pair was working on a consumer lending software program. In 2007, they incorporated eFinancial Solutions as the entity that would sell the software when it was ready for market. Freedom Bank was the perfect environment for beta testing eFinancial’s loan product, and the program soon exceeded both Don and Ed’s expectations for its performance.
In 2009, eFinancial Solutions found their first client in Treasure State Bank of Missoula. The newly opened bank was a perfect testing ground: a fresh leadership team was looking to innovative technology as a differentiator in their industry and knew eFinancial’s Advanced Management Platform for Loans (AMP Loans) product was a good fit. AMP Loans incorporates information from the bank’s core data processing system into an intuitive platform that provides users immediate access to key information throughout the lending process. The software significantly improves the efficiency and productivity of the lending team and increases customer satisfaction.
“We knew there was a better way to go through the loan process than doing paperwork in triplicate and keeping people waiting for information for days or weeks. This software just takes away so many headaches for both the lender and consumer” said Bennett.
AMP Loans is currently available as a licensed software product that comes with support and updates, and is in the process of transitioning to a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS). Today, banks in Columbia Falls, Missoula, and Big Timber are using the software to make lenders’ lives easier.
Adding jobs in Montana is a priority for eFinancial Solutions. The company just hired 2 additional full-time employees to help them ramp up for emerging growth opportunities, expects to add another 3 FTEs by the end of this year, and plans to add to their team around Montana significantly beyond that. The hiring model is flexible, allowing team members to work from whichever Montana community they call home in order to attract the best talent.
The eFinancial Solutions team sees being in Montana as an integral component of their success:
“We’ve been able to access tons of resources we never would have known existed if not for the burgeoning infrastructure of assistance in Montana. So far, we’ve had 2 MBA classes at the University of Montana (UM) focused on assisting us with business development and quantifying software results as a class project - I don’t think that happens in many other places.”
Those MBA classes were taught by Professors Cameron Lawrence and Simona Stan, who later introduced the eFinancial Solutions team to the UM Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) where they found additional resources. Their interactions with OTT led to finding out about the FastTrac Tech Venture Program at the Montana Enterprise Center, where they learned the art of defining the company’s unique value proposition, marketing techniques, and met an amazing network of fellow entrepreneurs who have since acted as mentors and advisors.
“We’re proud to be a Montana company with global growth potential. Right now, we’re at that stage where it seems like every day brings a new opportunity. It’s exciting!”