Banks Are Banking on Innovation

by RaeAnne Marsh

Bankers are generally retail front-office people or in office environments throughout all of our communities. They were deemed “essential” under the governor’s executive stay-at-home order. Therefore, many have been in the bank as usual throughout this entire ordeal. That said, the banks have had to make some significant configuration changes in order to keep their customers and employees safe.

They have taken measures to move as much of their workforce to work-at-home environments as possible, while still remaining open for their customers. Some have closed lobbies and fully utilized their drive-thru facilities. Others have limited lobby hours and occupancy consistent with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. And most have pivoted as much as possible to utilizing telephonic and digital channels to handle routine banking business. Now, bankers can finally relate to the vast majority of our millennials.

In remaining open, we have been impacted by the same supply chain issue as many retail office environments: lack of hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies. Most of our other office supplies have not been impacted.

We have largely been able to continue serving our customers. And in many ways our tempo of operations has greatly increased. We are busy working on forbearance agreements and loan modifications for our residential and commercial real estate borrowers who have been negatively impacted by the economic consequences of the pandemic.

We have been working literally around the clock to implement the various components of the recently passed CARES Act, making loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program; and working to deposit, cash and otherwise protect Economic Impact Payments being issued by the millions by the IRS. We are also working to implement the Federal Reserve’s $600B Main Street Lending Program for our medium- and larger-sized businesses.

One issue that several business sectors will have to collaborate on for a long-lasting solution will be how to do appraisals in a pandemic. This is something we are working through with mortgage bankers, real estate developers and brokers. Currently, some of the appraisals are being delayed without stopping consummation of the contract. This is not a perfect solution and risks resulting in litigation. In the long term, we are going to need a statutory change that adapts appraisal standards and requirements in a way that prevents economic activity and safety reactions to pandemics from becoming mutually exclusive.

To the extent that we had not already moved entirely to a legal environment where digital signatures are valid and acceptable, the reaction to this event will push us there.

This is one part of the June 2020 cover story on industry impact of COVID-19. To see the full story, click here.

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