Santa Rosa digital lending startup CuneXus bought by Midwest investment firm CUNA Mutual

Santa Rosa-based CuneXus Solutions, which started 13 years ago with an idea for simplifying loan originations and now serves more than 100 institutions, has been acquired by CUNA Mutual Group, an early investor that’s looking to get into digital lending.

In the deal, announced Thursday, CuneXus will retain its offices at Old Courthouse Square, all 19 employees and the spirit of innovation that has defined its character through the years, according to founder and CEO Dave Buerger. The co-founder launched the company with Darin Chong and John Reich.

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

Now having a large organization as a parent company supporting its efforts represents the best of both worlds to Buerger.

“This just adds another chapter to our growth,” he said.

The Sonoma County firm makes licensed software that provides one-stop, one-click digital lending in a computer platform designed for financial institutions. More than 100 credit unions and about 25 banks have signed on with the software, which the firm hails “eliminates loan applications” by crunching data the institutions already have.

Buerger worked for the region’s largest financial cooperative, Redwood Credit Union, between 2001 and 2007. In true North Bay fashion, he entered into the wine marketing business after that stint, before returning to the financial services industry with a bootstrap startup in 2008.

Being bought by a company with the stature of CUNA Mutual Group raised the profile of CuneXus, he said.

“We exceeded our expectations. We knew that CuneXus would be acquired, placing it on a path of an accelerated future. It’s the perfect scenario for us. There were only a few suitors we were interested in,” Buerger told the Business Journal.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based insurance and investment firm for credit unions was an early adopter in planting seed money into CuneXus.

In 2013, CuneXus released CPLXpress as a flagship product designed to make consumer lending easier with “1-click” transactions that delivers personalized offers to the customers’ mobile devices. A combination of the bank or credit union’s customer data, lending criteria and credit history is considered in the offers. In its first year, the product processed $200 million in consumer loan value.

Buerger declined to release revenue figures for the private company.

With 3,600 employees, CUNA Mutual Group has diversified into product services for financial institutions and technology companies. These include investments, workers compensation, debt protection and retirement resources. The 85-year-old public company’s assets in 2019 totaled $24.6 billion.

According to company officials, it sought expansion into digital lending and a technological advancement in the insurance division.

“We are continuing our journey into a more diverse, digital-first world,” CUNA CEO Robert N. Trunzo said. “Our company is committed to using technology to enhance consumers’ access to financial solutions that work for them and create a more equitable financial system and society.”

Ronny Chapman, CUNA Mutual’s senior vice president, expressed his company’s aim to use the CuneXus’ technological platform to harness new channels and markets for its insurance business.

“CUNA Mutual Group and CuneXus are fully committed to supporting the nearly 140 financial services clients and 19 million consumers the CuneXus platform has access to (in order to) help with their lending needs,” Chapman told the Business Journal. “We’ll look to grow and expand our partnerships with more credit unions and throughout the financial services industry.”

On that note, Buerger’s former employer weighed in on the buyout.

“We’re very happy for CuneXus. CUNA Mutual is one of the top service providers in our industry, and this partnership will benefit credit unions and their members nationwide,” Redwood Credit Union President and CEO Brett Martinez said.

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