By Jill Nagy
Area banks have been upgrading their online and digital services but the big push in 2020 appears to be administering Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) small business loans.
“It was an all-hands-on-deck situation; we recruited everyone to help out,” recalled Charles Wait Jr., president and CEO of Adirondack Trust Co. The bank processed $100 million worth of loans in the first round and he expects another $50 million during the second round. “It’s been an interesting 12 months,” he reflected.
Similarly, Marc Monahan, Glens Falls and Saratoga regional executive for NBT Bank, welcomed the PPP program as a way to stay in connection with existing customers as well as a way to bring in new ones.
“They need an account with us but they can open an account and apply for a loan on the same day,” he said. NBT has a dedicated website for PPP loans and, according to Monahan, they processed more than 3,000 applications last spring.
“The past year has altered how we communicate with our customers,” Monahan said.
NBT has enhanced its mobile banking services, including mobile deposit (deposit checks using the camera on your smart phone), online payment services, and online bill paying. The drive-throughs are open and customers can visit the bank lobbies by appointment. However, he finds that customers increasingly prefer using electronic services.
“We continually look to add and improve services,” he said, but, for now, he is “very satisfied.”
At Adirondack Trust, Wait expects to announce new enhancements to their mobile banking services toward the end of the year.
The bank is about to open a new branch in Glens Falls that will add drive-through services in Glens Falls.
The bank’s other big project in 2020 was sale of a Monopoly-type board game that used Saratoga Springs landmarks instead of the standard Monopoly locations. The game is manufactured by Hasbro. Proceeds from the sales, at $49 a game, went to the Adirondack Trust Co. Community Fund to help fund area nonprofits. The bank sold 5,000 games in five months, according to Wait. All in all, the community fund raised $80,000 for organizations in the Saratoga and Glens Falls areas during 2020.
Adirondack Trust continues to offer conventional banking services.
“Digital is the wave of the future,“ Wait said, “But we want to accommodate as many people as possible.” The growing preference for digital services may, in part, reflect the current pandemic restrictions. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this summer.”
For the PPP loans, customers apply through an online portal, Monahan explained, and they receive the necessary documents electronically. Bank officers can assist applicants by explaining what documentation is needed, and provide guidance on how to approach the process, he said.
Then, the bank verifies the paperwork and submits it to the Small Business Administration. If the loan is approved, the money goes directly into the applicant’s bank account. “We try to minimize personal contact,” he said.
Both banks are now assisting last year’s successful applicants as they apply for forgiveness of their loans, if appropriate. The SBA is revising the forgiveness application and some of the requirements are a moving target, but Monahan expects a final application form in mid-March.
Demand for new loans remains strong, although not as great as last spring, Monahan said. Wait agreed.
Even after the PPP program ends, “We will still see a need for small business relief,” Monahan said.