Celebrating Community Bankers of the Year 2020
by Kristy Merrill, President - NH Bankers Association as published in New Hampshire Business Review September 11, 2020
For the past 26 years, the New Hampshire Bankers Association has presented the Community Banker of the Year Award to a bank employee who has a winning combination of professionalism and community engagement and has made a significant positive impact on those around them. But as we know all too well, 2020 has been anything but ordinary.
This year, we couldn’t in good conscience select just one extraordinary banker, when every one of them have so notably stepped up to support our state in its time of need. As such, we are pleased to recognize and congratulate all our bankers in New Hampshire as our Community Bankers of the Year.
We recognize and deeply appreciate the work of all who have risen to the occasion to help move us all forward and keep us safe during the pandemic, whether our front-line hospital and long-term care workers, to our fire, police and grocery store employees. Our congratulations of the work being done by our bankers in no way diminishes the very good and important work that so many people capably performed during the early days of the shutdown. However, our bankers have also been put to the test and their unceasing efforts have helped support our friends, neighbors and small businesses during their darkest hours, and kept our economy flowing.
In the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, our bankers responded. They adapted under tight deadlines and provided essential counsel and funds to help preserve thousands of jobs, all while continuing to make our communities a top priority. Bankers didn’t close their doors. Let me rephrase that - if they closed their doors, they expanded their drive thrus, scheduled appointments in their lobbies, or came to greet customers in the parking lot to continue safely and efficiently serving their customers. The mantra I have heard from our bankers time and again is to operate in a way that is, “business as usual.” True to that spirit, bankers did their best to serve their customers as if it were “business as usual” in a very unusual environment indeed.
When COVID shut things down, bankers did not. They responded by calling customers proactively. They asked how they were doing and met their financial needs through an incredible time of uncertainty. They sprang into action immediately, deferring and modifying loan payments, lines of credit and other products, and waiving fees.
Refinancing activity increased significantly, and our bankers processed high volumes of loan modifications - all before the Payroll Protection Program came to be.
As a reminder, our member banks processed over 19,832 PPP loans valued over $2.5 Billion in New Hampshire. Our members supported at 182,795 jobs here, through those PPP loans. For many bankers, they processed more loans in one month through the PPP program than their total loan volume over a one- or two-year period.
In the first days of the PPP, the program was first come, first serve and was very well advertised. The application was made publicly available before the rules for lenders were out, and we all sensed the overwhelming demand by the public, evidenced by long waiting lists.
Some feared banks wouldn’t be able to take care of the people counting on them for PPP funds, but banks weren’t about to let that happen. To respond, they pulled people in from all different departments, had bankers working around the clock shifts - meaning late nights, early mornings and weekends. Bankers were looking for anytime when the chronically overwhelmed portal to the Small Business Administration was less trafficked. I remember clearly one bank telling me they were working at midnight – as soon as the portal opened – so their customers could be the first to get PPP loans in New Hampshire.
Our bankers responded to the incredible demand and confusing and constantly changing guidance, and they did so while they were working remotely and trying to take care of their kids at home – just like everyone else.
Throughout these past several months, bankers have also continued to do what they do best - charitably support our communities. Whether through financial support to non-profits through the NH Non-Profit Response Fund, NH Community Loan Fund, 100% matches of contributions to community organizations and local Chambers of Commerce, through donations to food pantries and grocery deliveries for seniors, meals on wheels programs, soup kitchens, lunch programs, or supporting local businesses through purchasing gift cards and lunch for employees, banks continually gave back.
They also found time to volunteer by making face masks for those in need. They cleaned neighborhoods collecting trash, provided transportation to doctor’s visits, and donated bags for students to pack their supplies to start online learning. They also supported the delivery of meals to local medical teams, police and fire departments, and spread cheer through acts of kindness, signs of thanks, hope and inspiration at hospital entrances and throughout the communities they serve.
Congratulations to all of our extraordinary bankers this year - thank you for your commitment to your customers and to our Granite Sate communities.