How First Utah Banked helped our community through the COVID-19 pandemic | First Utah Bank
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How First Utah Banked helped our community through the COVID-19 pandemic

As Utah’s premier community bank, we saw first-hand the impact of COVID-19 on businesses of all types and sizes. As the pandemic quickly spread around the world, uncertainty gripped the global consciousness. As a result, we knew our clients were going to be up against many challenges. But more than that, we knew we’d have to move quickly to help them. We moved quickly to shore up our clients’ business banking, business loan, credit cards, and line of credit services.

This manifested in several ways. It accelerated the deployment of digital tools our customers and associates needed while working from home, collaborating across the organization to streamline our processes. We moved faster while still managing risk and we leveraged our deep roots in the Salt Lake City and Lehi communities to help piece together fractured supply chains.

Still, nothing prepared us for what was necessary to support various emergency COVID-19 government lending programs. In the U.S., that came in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act. These separate pieces of legislation were designed to help business owners continue to pay their employees during the economic downturn. Very quickly, we realized we would have to re-examine all of our policies to ensure we were offering business banking services in Utah that were right for the times.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic still surrounds us to this day. From stories of personal loss to customers and their employees facing unprecedented turmoil, the height of the pandemic was a tough time. Here at First Utah Bank, we often talk about the “purpose” behind the digital transformation in banking. We believe it is to make the lives of our customers easier, helping them grow their businesses and achieve their financial goals. We’re here to serve and support the community that supports us.

In many cases, you can see the benefit of these efforts over an extended period. However, as we learned more about what was necessary to reserve PPP funding, we knew we needed to move very fast and be extremely nimble because the program was constantly evolving. Our goal from the start was to make the application process simple to remove as much stress from our customers as possible. Behind the scenes, we worked hard to bring continuity and reliability to our business banking and online banking programs.

Our Utah-based teams provided support and reached new levels of professionalism and personal sacrifice to provide emergency relief so that our customers could support their employees. Driven by this purpose, and enabled by this new hybrid approach that synthesizes digital and human with a new “way of working,” we were able to secure PPP funding for 100% of our eligible customers, while also reducing projected operating costs by orders of magnitude. We also rapidly increased application processing time by an appreciable amount. And yet, this would prove to be the easy part.

How we adapted to provide PPP loan relief to those in need

Working with PPP loans proved to be a challenge. PPP loans are different in that if a customer uses the proceeds for specific purposes as set forth by the program (for payroll, as one example), the loan would be fully forgiven by the US Small Business Administration. We quickly learned that the “forgiveness” process would be rigorous and require the need for personalized and secure digital interactions with our customers at scale.

This included everything from the collection of data, exchange and categorization of documents, fingertip access to both human and digital support agents, and integration into the US government’s new PPP platform to provide, in some cases, real-time updates back to our customers and front-line staff. We started this process by assessing several third-party applications, offerings from consultancies, and potential partners in the financial technology sector. In the end, we relied on good old-fashioned human hard work and grit to get applications processed and address customer needs. Through us, businesses around Utah would be the recipients of many millions of dollars of PPP loans and grants, and we’re proud of that work.

Here at First Utah Bank, we could not be more proud of what our team has accomplished and the trajectory we’re on. But more importantly, it’s not necessarily our perspective that matters as much as how our customers’, who have responded quite positively to our efforts. In the end, the survival of our customers and the growth of Utah businesses in the face of adversity is all the validation we need. We’re proud to be Utah’s premier community bank, helping our business clients through thick and thin, no matter what. Stop in today and learn how we can help your Utah-based business succeed no matter the times.