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3 Essential Lessons From the PPP Loan Request Effort

May 14, 2020|0 min read
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As part of our ongoing effort to help financial services companies navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve created a series of roundtable discussions on the topic. Attendees collaborate over breakfast (provided via a GrubHub gift card) on how to engage customers and improve outcomes right now.

Our third roundtable happened last week, led by Nate Gardner, Chief Customer Officer at MX, and Steve Adams, the Chief Commercial Banking Officer at Synovus.

Gardner kicked things off by talking about how the intent of the conversation was to discuss “how to elevate and make an impact for good in the world.” He then turned things over to Adams and the rest of the attendees to gather practical insights and see what everyone had learned from the experience so far.

It was a conversation full of actionable ideas. We’ve captured three learnings here.

1. Frequent internal communication is imperative — especially now.

Steve Adams detailed his team’s response at Synovus to the payment protection program and CARES Act. “For a period of about five or six days, we had around five 30-minute calls a day that went until 11:00 at night,” he said. In each call his team discussed any new information and any new problems that had arisen since their last call and then pinpointed any decisions they needed to make before the next one. Since things were changing so quickly day to day and hour to hour, this level of internal communication was critical.

Another attendee said that they quickly realized that spreadsheets wouldn’t cut it for their internal communication needs. “The loan request volume was just overwhelming,” they said. “One person was trying to keep up the spreadsheet with 30 other people processing loans.” As a result of the overwhelming volume, they moved to a cloud-based system, a move that required daily training meetings to get the team up to speed. Everything was happening on the fly, which made constant communication even more necessary.

2. This industry can move fast.

As internal communications heated up, so did the decision-making process. One attendee talked about how their institution quickly decided on a set of new processes and then trained employees across multiple states on how to best deal with the volume of loan requests. “My takeaway is the fact that we could do it,” they said. “We had to bust through and not worry about a lot of the compliance things that would normally have stymied us, and we had to do it very quickly. And we did. And I feel like the whole industry was very successful at this.”

“I do wonder if we've set a new level of expectation, which is probably good,” they added. “In just a few short weeks, we saw people go from not knowing how to be comfortable running these types of meetings and technology to being very comfortable. It’s exciting to see.”

3. People need technology and the human touch.

Steve Adams said that one of the most important learnings for him had to do with finding the right mix of technology and manual processes. “We learned the importance of technology and the ability to enable client engagement without sitting face-to-face, which is something that's been important in our consumer business but something we haven't tackled as much in small business. And we learned that we need that.”

As the team at Synovus focused on giving their SMB clients the ability to quickly talk to someone on their team, they also realized they needed to keep their own connection to industry specialists alive. “We would not have been able to operate without the ability to hop on calls every day with our peers, with industry specialists who are helping get answers to our questions,” he said.That has absolutely been a lifeline for us.”

In other words, the human touch matters on both fronts —from clients being able to connect with their bank and from bank employees being able to connect with specialists and regulators who know the ins and outs of legislation. On both fronts it’s not just about technology (though technology can improve processes tremendously). It’s also about relationships —being able to communicate in real time when questions arise.

Nate Gardner ended the discussion by talking about what MX has been doing to help small businesses in the past few weeks. “Our focus really has been around helping you all get through the deluge of these PPP loan applications,” he said. “The project was born from having communication with a number of our clients who said, ‘Hey, we've got a backlog of applications and limited SBA login capability.’”

“So we really went to work quickly,” Gardner said. “We built a solution that would allow anyone in the organization to digitize manual applications and then also have any future small businesses submit directly through our portal. Then we coded up to the API of the SBA and built a robotic processing automation system.”

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