Farm Credit Makes a Digital Transformation with Iron Comps

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An open mind, industry knowledge, and a commitment to excellence are driving innovation at Compeer Financial

Mike Morris, VP of Appraisal for Compeer Financial, is well-known in farm appraiser circles in the Midwest, and within the Farm Credit System. He was recently named to the IL Society of Professional Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers hall of fame and currently serves on the Real Estate Appraisal Administration and Disciplinary Board for the State of Illinois . He also spent 10 years on the board (serving one term as president) of the IL Coalition of Appraisal Professionals, too. At first glance, his accolades could make people think he’s an industry vet sitting at a big desk behind a sign saying “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Will the real Mike Morris please stand up?

The real Mike Morris? He’s an industry innovator.

In 2017, 1st Farm Credit Services, AgStar Financial Services, and Badgerland Financial united as Compeer Financial. Mike was tasked to lead Compeer’s appraisal efforts. His mission? Develop innovative solutions to do better for their clients – American 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 real estate and chattel appraisal groups was, ‘How do we tap into this massive source of data throughout the Midwest?’”

Through their own research, Compeer learned that their appraisers knew the local market well. However, it wasn’t efficient to go very far outside of their area to gather data.  Furthermore, once they did get the data, it came from so many sources that it took a tremendous amount of time to standardize and analyze it all. At the end of the day, they needed a consistent, standardized data source that wasn’t specific to one auction. They needed a bigger picture – one that they didn’t need to develop themselves.

“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 it.”

It was in this search for the solution that Mike’s deep industry knowledge was key. He understood that standardized data was the key to his team’s success, especially data that can be sorted by time and location.

“It was essential to have a single source that aggregated the data to use in our farm equipment 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.”

The Search

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.

“Compeer didn’t really want a black box answer – i.e., 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 learned long ago that innovation is everywhere, not just in The Silicon Valley. To that end, he intentionally reaches out to progressive companies who push the boundaries of what is possible.

That’s where he met us.

“We met Mike through a mutual friend who was also in the Ag-Tech space who knew he was forward-thinking and always looking for better solutions to age-old problems,” stated Jeremy Hewitt VP of Sales at Tractor Zoom and Iron Comps.

Mike’s drive for innovation did not stop with finding a partner. He was very clear in his expectations of the scope of work. That set the bar not only for his internal team, but also for us, too. People who love their work will typically rise to meet a worthy challenge – and for us, this was definitely worthy.

“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 even happen in real time!”

The Results

Two of the biggest ongoing benefits of Mike’s approach are access to robust data and massive time-savings. “Our travel evaluators spent countless hours finding, analyzing, and putting data into spreadsheets to make it useful. I would say they probably spent as much as 40 or 50% of their time on that process! What Iron Comps has allowed us to do is push that process back to [Iron Comps]. Instead of following up on every individual auction, we can validate that data internally. We can confidently say, ‘Yes, the data you are getting matches what we see out in the country.’ Ultimately, Iron Comps has saved our team a ton of research time. Finally, my team can really focus on what they are very good at! Furthermore, they’ve got 40-50% more time to devote to it, too!”

“Iron Comps has also helped us standardize our data set compared to where we were before. An appraiser in Illinois might’ve used a different set of data than say someone in Minnesota or Wisconsin. Now they all have access to the same, larger set of data. It’s so much more robust and comprehensive compared to what we dealt with before.”

From where we’re sitting, an open mind to new partners, deep industry knowledge, and die-hard devotion to high standards made all the difference in the world to this project – both for us as well as the team at Compeer Financial. Furthermore, it allows them to focus on what they do best – continually doing better for their farmers! While this is reason enough to invest in Iron Comps and its capabilities, they’re just getting started. There’s lots more innovation on the horizon!