On March 27, 2020, the CARES Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump after being passed by the 116th U.S. Congress. The bill contained $2.2 trillion in economic stimulus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on the economy. Included in the bill was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was initially approved with $350 billion in funding availability to help American businesses, proprietors, and certain nonprofit and tribal businesses continue to maintain payroll and cover costs despite loss of revenue resulting from the pandemic and related mandates.

The U.S. Small Business Administration administers the PPP program with the U.S. banking system serving as the conduit to those applying for funding in the form of a low-interest rate loan which the SBA can fully forgive.

In March 2020, the Settlers bank team decided to participate even though the SBA had not yet created the program architecture. Despite the perceived difficulties and lack of specific information, we wanted to help provide funding to entities that needed it to keep employees paid and, in some cases, just to survive.

We mobilized with the mindset to be innovative and use technology to streamline the process for applicants and our banking team. If we could not be innovative in our execution, the program would be onerous and cumbersome. Faced with that possibility, we used the following tactics to help make the PPP process at Settlers bank industry-leading:

·       We immediately created a COVID-19 Loan Programs landing page on the Settlers bank website for applicants seeking information on the PPP (among others). The page provided general parameters and direct links to pertinent SBA pages and documents needed to apply.

·       Our filing system was 100 percent virtual. Settlers’ longstanding commitment to paperless methods had us well-situated to electronically manage the PPP process. Applicants applied by submitting a single email, then uploaded the appropriate documents. Those documents moved through the process from pending to review to submitted status virtually and sequentially. 

Our lending team used virtual meetings to efficiently communicate program details, clarifications and updates. This saved time and allowed for engagement with work-from-

·       home employees while eliminating the need for travel. Our team also used virtual meetings to verify PPP applicants’ identities (new clients), again saving time, and eliminating in-person contact.

·       Our lending operations team used virtual checklists to ensure accuracy and compliance with the many requirements of the PPP. Along with these checklists, we created a “buddy system” to ensure dual review of the application before uploading it to the SBA.

·       Settlers bank rolled out DocuSign® in 2019 and used it to obtain electronic signatures versus signing in person. The use of DocuSign® was another time-saver that eliminated the need for in-person contact.  

By thinking innovatively throughout the PPP process, we were able to serve our applicants efficiently and avoid unnecessary contact despite the program’s challenges.

By the completion of the first phases of PPP, the team at Settlers had served roughly 225 local businesses by making over $53 million in loans. Those loans helped keep more than 5,200 people employed in and around the markets we serve. We have continued to help provide PPP funding during the most recent phase of the program. 

Company: Settlers bank

Innovation: Streamlining the PPP experience