While times are uncertain for everyone, banks everywhere are doing their best to help families stay in their homes, discover available grants and loans, and keep small businesses alive. Heritage Bank, a Pacific Northwest financial institution since 1927, comes from a long history dedicated to “the belief that when banks and neighbors work together, great communities grow stronger.” Their team is working hard to keep our community strong and vibrant.
Commercial banking regional manager Daryl Fourtner, like the rest of us, is finding his feet during these chaotic times. “First and foremost,” he admits, “This has been unusual, we’re all living it no matter what. Everybody is affected and—at heart—our customers and employees are even more of a heightened priority.”
“Any type of hope or relief can help anxiety,” he adds, so Heritage Bank is offering customer counseling to everyone, especially struggling commercial and small business borrowers. Their long-time commitment to finding ways to work creatively and thankfully, meant an easy employee transition to working from home via video, phone or chat.
Working for an organization that’s 100 percent dedicated to its region and community is amazing. “I’m really proud to work for an organization that was able to pivot and respond,” says Fourtner. “The business community at large is also really grateful.” This small but mighty bank helped file more than 4,000 loans so far to protect jobs up and down the I-5 corridor. When asked to estimate how many jobs, he admits it’s easily “tens of thousands.”
“We started taking Paycheck Protection applications very quickly,” says Fourtner, “And asking ‘How do we get programs out quickly?’ There are a lot of questions that don’t have answers but our team members have really shined. Even before the CARES Act we worked with our customers to address their needs.”
More than initial cash-flow options, the bank’s team is “working through business expectations: what do they see as their future, working towards methods to reduce or defer monthly loan payments, and having compassion and kindness because anxiety levels are through the roof,” Fourtner explains.
Read about their approach to government assistance like the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was signed by the president on March 27, 2020 at a dedicated COVID-19 portal for businesses. Individuals needing help can check out their customer information page.
Since the outbreak, all Heritage Bank branches are closed to walk-in’s but drive-up windows and customer service channels are open. “The executive team organized the bank to be truly all hands-on deck in all departments,” says Fourtner. For commercial bankers, “We’re all divided into teams to process loans. They’re gathered, uploaded, triaged, and underwritten on-site, and quality control, documentation, and SBA approval can still go on.”
Like most banks, commercial lending staff at Heritage Bank were concerned about how they would fund such lifesaving loans. “In one month we processed more loans than we do in a normal year,” he admits. “But we creatively found ways to meet astronomical loan requests thanks to a total team effort, working 12-hour days and holidays. With the community at large now at least there’s some glimmer of home.”
The next worry is what Fourtner calls the Scarcity Principle. Will funding dry up? How can we maximize it? What comes next? Whatever happens, Heritage Bank’s many tireless—ok, they’re probably a little tired by now—relationship managers will be there to keep us going.
No one knows what changes the next few months will bring. Even with phased reopening through the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy mandate, it will be a long time before masks, social distancing, and normalcy returns. The Harvard Business Review warns that entrepreneurs should proceed slowly. “It is easy to panic when thousands are dying, the stock market is crashing, and unemployment is skyrocketing. Don’t! Research has shown that people are more likely to make mistakes when they are cash strapped and primed to think about financial stressors—a state that describes a lot of people right now…Before making any big leaps, take a cooling off period—and maybe even having a trusted third party such as a friend or colleague look over things with you—might help you avoid doing something you’ll come to regret.”
If you or someone you love owns and operates a small business in Washington or Oregon, let Heritage Bank’s commercial team be that trusted third party. They’re here to help. Make an appointment with the lending team online or by calling 800-455-6126 today.