Pub. 8 2019-2020 Issue 6

8 THE COMMUNITY BANKER QUART E R 4 2 0 2 0 Navigating the Pandemic— Where To From Here? BY GARY SHOOK, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COMMUNITY BANKERS’ BANK C ommunity Bankers’ Bank (CBB) was curious as to how our bankers in the Fifth Federal Reserve District are processing the moving parts and pieces that 2020 has handed us thus far. In late September, using an independent moderator, CBB convened several Zoom focus group calls comprised of banking executives from across the 5th District. We were eager to hear what they have experi- enced and where they think the industry is going. CARES ACT/Payroll Protection Program There was universal agreement within our focus groups that the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) brought new business opportunities to the community banking sector. They offered a much-needed lifeline to small businesses within their communities, despite evolving PPP guidelines and issues with the SBA loan application portal. Bankers who participated in PPP were grateful to fellow employees for the nim- bleness they exhibited by pivoting quickly to meet PPP demand. Bankers are working hard to “onboard” new relationships. Some banks have tied sales goals to retaining new PPP customers. Others send weekly newsletters and various marketing communications to generate interest in a broader array of products and services. We questioned our focus groups as to guidance on PPP loan for- giveness. Some have elected to utilize technology to assist with forgive- ness, but most banks plan to use existing resources. Our bankers are hopeful these loans will be forgiven, but there has been no legislative fix to ensure that. They hope small businesses and community banks are not put through additional stress and aggravation. All focus group participants were eager to get the forgiveness aspect behind them. Bricks and Mortar Branches vs. Mobile Banking Early in the pandemic, all focus group participants closed their re- tail banking offices to foot traffic. There was little complaint from cus - tomers, mostly because drive-up or walk-up banking options remained open. Many of our bankers said their customers were comfortable with “by appointment only” hours, and they would probably continue to offer