Alex Fan, Saxony's Vice President of Financial Services, shares his thoughts on the Paycheck Protection Program and banking automation tools – and sets the stage for PPP forgiveness
In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen news stories highlighting the resiliency and strength of the human spirit. From government to the grassroots, people have found ways to help those in need.
Politics aside, the CARES Act and specifically the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have helped small companies stay afloat during this time of economic shutdown. Interestingly, it’s during this time I found myself working through one of the shortest and most intense projects of my career – and yet, it was also one of the most fulfilling projects for me, knowing that the work would directly impact the livelihood of many other small businesses.
The challenge that arose amidst the rollout of PPP was a capacity problem. To put this into perspective, banks found themselves processing loan applications at volumes equal to five or more times the normal monthly volume within a span of only two weeks. To add to this intake pressure, the program mandated that banks fund the loans within 10 calendar days.
In addition to the operational capacity obstacle, technology also played a large part of the equation. There were systems that had functionality focused on intake, CRM, SBA approval, core banking, and others. The sprawl of systems highlighted the lack of integrations between each system, resulting in poor data quality and what we affectionately call, “swivel chair” integration (e.g., manually copying data from one screen to another).
In the end, the double whammy of operational and technological difficulties drastically limited what banks were able to do despite their greatest intentions.
We were brought in at the cusp of the PPP being approved, tasked with building out a system through which data could be aggregated and checked, with an end goal of automating the loan creation and funding. Remember, this development had to be done in parallel with relationship managers taking applications, loan ops processing, deposit ops validating, and all within the 10-day funding window! It was a tall order, with work being done at break-neck speed. In the end, our solution achieved three fundamental outcomes: data consolidation, exception reporting, and workflow automation.
Afterward, I reflected on how this small engagement was highly indicative of the opportunities we have seen and will continue to see within the industry. We need 360-degree views of our customers fused from hosts of various systems, each specialized in certain functions of services. We need the tools to do reconciliation and data governance to ensure our customers’ data is secure and correct. We need automation to improve the accuracy and the efficiency of our operations, allowing them to do more with less.
We need to do all of this and then we need to do it better – keeping in mind that it is the customer we serve. That last piece sometimes gets lost, but this latest experience was a good reminder of the reason of why I love doing what I do. We don’t always get to see the fruits of our labor, but this time we were blessed to reap those rewards in a matter of weeks.
Knowing that this work wasn’t just a technology implementation but had a direct impact to the livelihood of many others in the same boat as I, was a testament that there is humanity within technology. When you peel back the marketing messaging around technology advancement, you see that, at the core, it’s about improving people’s lives. In this time in history, more than ever, let’s remember that simple fact.
Of course, PPP is only half complete – the forgiveness period is coming up soon. I’d love to hear what thoughts, questions or concerns you are processing through in preparation of the next phase. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.