Farm Credit Makes a Digital Transformation with Iron Comps
Innovative Service Starts with the Right Mindset
An Open Mind, Industry Knowledge, and High Standards are helping drive innovation at Compeer Financial
Mike Morris, VP of Appraisal at Compeer Financial, is leading by leveraging big data to drive innovation at one of the largest credit institutions in his industry. His title may suggest a hipster jumping from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. His hall of fame stature in the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and previous 10 years at the helm of the Illinois Coalition of Appraisal Professions may conjure up contradictory images of an industry veteran sitting at a big desk in front of a sign saying “This is the way we’ve always done it.”. Neither is close to the truth.
Mr. Morris was tasked to lead Compeer Financial appraisal efforts when it was formed in 2017 from the merger of 1st Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services and Badgerland Financial. His mission was to provide innovative solutions to better their client, America’s Farmers.
“In Compeer’s pursuit to provide the best possible service to our farmers, we knew we had to be continually looking to improve and innovate. One of the first challenges that I had running the appraisal group, real estate and chattel appraisal, was, ‘How do we tap into this massive source of data throughout the Midwest?’
Through their own evaluations, Compeer discovered their appraisers really knew the local market well, but due to limited time, ease of access, and ability to compile information, they were not able to go very far outside of that market to gather data.
“We knew there was a lot of data out there. We just weren't as comprehensive as we needed to be. [There are] several regional sources that are really good, but nobody was aggregating the data.”
Compeer Financial was looking at this daunting challenge of being able to source data from a wide geographical area efficiently. There is so much information out there from so many different sources that it became very difficult to keep up with sourcing quality data while simultaneously using that information for appraisals. Compeer’s opportunity to improve was to search for a solution that provided a consistent source of data that wasn’t specific to one auction. Mike understood to be innovative, his team couldn’t rely on the past methods that got them to where they currently were.
It was in this search for the solution that Mike’s deep industry knowledge was key. He understood that standardized data key to his team’s appraisal success, especially data that can be sorted by time and location.
“It was essential that we have that single source that aggregated the data to use in our evaluations. In the past, if someone went into a website on a Monday and got information for a specific tractor or combine, then someone went out a month later, that data might be completely different. Coming from a real estate background, my bias is toward having actual market data.”
Compeer put out a request to potential vendors asking them to aggregate all this massive amount of data, organize it, and bring it back in. It had to be robust, accurate, and transparent.
“We didn't really want a black box answer. We didn't want to push a button to get a value. We were already really good at [getting that value] ourselves. We needed a way to put the data in our own hands efficiently and then let our trained chattel appraisers make the determination of the final value using that data.”
Mike understood that you don’t have to live in ‘the valley’ to be innovative. He took the proactive steps to reach out to progressive companies who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, which is where he met up with Iron Comps.
“We met Mike through a mutual friend who was also in the Ag-tech space who knew Mike was forward-thinking and looking for a better solution to an age-old problem.” stated Jeremy Hewitt VP of Sales at Tractor Zoom and Iron Comps.
Mike’s drive for innovation did not stop with finding a partner. Clearly communicating the expectations of the work to be done, not only set the bar for his internal team, but also everyone involved outside of his team as well. People who love their work will typically rise to meet a worthy challenge.
“We really challenged the Iron Comp team to make enhancements along the way. Things that help us do our jobs better and to innovate in the future. Iron Comps has been very responsive to our requests. They work closely with our team to make changes and improvements. Some of them being made in real time!”
Two of the biggest benefits of Mike’s transformative approach are access to robust data and time. “Our travel evaluators used to spend a lot of time looking for data, scrubbing it, analyzing it, getting it into spreadsheets where then it was finally usable. I would say they probably spent as much as 40 or 50% of their time in that process. What Iron Comps has allowed us to do is push that process back to [Iron Comps]. Instead of us having to follow up on every individual auction, we can do our own internal validation studies to say, “Yes, the data you are getting matches what we see out in the country.” Iron Comps has provided time savings for us in doing the research. Now my team can really focus on what they are very good at.”
“Iron Comps has also helped us standardize our data set compared to where we were before. An appraiser in Illinois might be using a different set of data than say someone in Minnesota or Wisconsin. So now they all have access to the larger set of data, which is so much more robust and comprehensive compared to what we dealt with before.”
An open mind to new partners, deep industry knowledge, and persistently expecting high standards has resulted in saving Mike’s team time and allows them to focus on the work they enjoy. This approach is also providing more innovative solutions and value to Compeer’s customers. While this is reason enough to invest in an innovative approach, the work with Iron Comps is just getting started towards their continued digital transformation journey at Compeer Financial.