“The amount of grace everyone extended through this exemplified how this was truly a team effort.”
Grace is defined as an act or instance of kindness and courtesy. Claire Thwaites, who serves as a Specialized Banking Relationship Assistant for Regions, said while grace is often seen throughout the company, it’s been especially abundant lately.
Thwaites was one of dozens of associates from within Regions’ Corporate Banking Group who were cross-trained by the Commercial Banking Credit Services (CBCS) team to facilitate tens of thousands of client applications for financing through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program, which initially launched on April 3, is a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act designed to offer relief measures to eligible businesses and other organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The best way to characterize our approach was all hands on deck.
Nikki Stephenson, Commercial Credit Products, Regions Bank
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal agency that administers the program. The Regions SBA operations team, as part of CBCS at Regions, typically has 35 associates managing an average of 15-25 SBA deals per month. The SBA CARES Act Steering Committee knew demand would be high for PPP funding and that the manual application process would be time-consuming. Additional associates would be needed to handle drastically increased volume.
Grace was exemplified by Greg Gervase’s CBCS SBA Ops teammates, who not only served as the subject-matter experts in the cross-training of associates, they also worked up to 18-hour days since the inception of the program.
“We took the SBA model and our normal course of business and streamlined it in order to manage this program and the volume of the program, but that foundational knowledge put us on the right path to building a process,” Gervase said.
Grace was shown by the teams of Nikki Stephenson and Mike Mason, who manage the Commercial and Corporate Credit Products Groups, respectively. Their associates, including Claire Thwaites, were plugged into the SBA work quickly. Additionally, the SBA guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program evolved over time, but so, too, did the cross-trained associates.
“The best way to characterize our approach was all hands on deck. We engaged the talent resources we had available,” Stephenson explained. “What was a positive out of this is it wasn’t hard to engage; we received many inbound offers from associates looking to help. That, and how everyone came together, really impressed me.”
Grace was shown by Thwaites, who says while duties and workloads temporarily changed for many associates, there was a singular motivation driving everyone to forge on: Regions’ small-business customers and their employees.
“I heard examples daily of how we were helping small businesses – and it resonated that those could have been our neighbors or someone we knew getting the funds they needed to get paid – and that’s why it was bigger than us,” Thwaites said.
The biggest thing to consider is just how much we as bankers and associates of Regions can positively impact people’s lives.
Greg Gervase, Commercial Credit Services, Regions Bank
“We knew we needed to get this done to support our clients and the men and women that work for our clients. That was the continual focus and the drumbeat from people within the organization and our leadership; that was why we were working those long hours,” added Josh Treen, a Credit Products Commercial Portfolio Manager.
Grace was demonstrated through innovation by many, including Treen, during the application period. When he saw an opportunity to help, he not only raised his hand, he also identified a drawback in the manual application process and offered an improvement. Applying his educational background in management information systems, Treen developed a loan documentation solution that significantly reduced the time it took to prepare the Paycheck Protection Program loan documentation.
“The amount of buy-in we saw from associates was phenomenal. When everyone heard how many jobs they were helping to save with each loan approved, the importance of the work became especially clear to all involved. The objective was to help clients and their employee bases, and we saw terrific efforts across the board on that front,” Mike Mason said.
The team continues to focus on diligently processing applications submitted, with grace inevitably continuing throughout the remaining aspects of the Program.
“The biggest thing to consider is just how much we as bankers and associates of Regions can positively impact people’s lives – thinking about how far and wide our reach goes in positively impacting our clients and their employees,” Greg Gervase concluded. “Our people stepped up for the greater good. That’s why we do this.”