March is about celebrating the contributions women have made to our history, culture, and society, and over the last year we’ve had the opportunity to witness one of these contributions up close, with our partner Seacoast Bank.
Since the 1920s, Seacoast has served Florida communities through good times and bad. As a cornerstone of the small businesses that fuel the Sunshine State’s economic engine, they’re always ready to act when things take a turn for the worst—be it a rough hurricane season, or a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
When Covid first reached American shores and lockdowns triggered an economic crisis, Seacoast immediately mobilized to help, as did so many of their peers.
But what’s unique about Seacoast’s response to the pandemic and the Paycheck Protection Program is that it’s led by a team of six executive women.
Through three rounds of funding, countless all-nighters, and a year of on and off branch closures, the Seacoast Super Six, as they’ve come to be known, helped thousands of local businesses secure critical federal aid when they needed it most.
On Tuesday, March 23, our insights team was lucky enough to be joined by Seacoast’s fearless leaders Julie Kleffel, EVP and chief banking officer, Julie Anne Leggett, VP and change manager, Teresa Idzior, SVP and director of loan operations and administration, Stacy Maclure, SVP and SBA department manager, Michelle Michnoff, VP and community banking manager, and Devon Taylor, VP of service delivery.
During a special edition of our Weekly Q&A Session, our team engaged the Seacoast Super Six in a series of discussions ranging from the early days of PPP to what it means to be a woman leader in a historically male-dominated industry.
Here are five important takeaways from our conversation.
Top 5 Takeaways from the Seacoast Super Six on PPP, Digital Transformation, Customer Experience, and More
While you can watch our conversation with the Seacoast Super Six in full above, here are some important takeaways from the March 23 webinar:
- Exceptional customer experience is about striking a balance between digital and people. “I think many customers learned two things during the pandemic and I certainly would speak to that as a consumer of digital technology as well as someone who has invested in business,” said Seacoast Chief Banking Officer Julie Kleffel. According to Julie, the No. 1 thing business owners learned during the pandemic is “that online and mobile offerings are incredibly convenient and safe, and became really the main driver to how customers interact with the bank.” But that doesn’t mean business owners want to exclusively interact with their bank in this way.
The second learning for customers, Julie says, is an understanding of just how important bankers are to their customers. PPP, given its complexities and the ever-changing guidance from the Small Business Administration, still requires banker intervention from time to time. Seacoast’s ability to strike a balance between banker support and a digital customer experience was key to their success. “What I can tell you,” said Julie, “is as the lifeline to small business, we would not have been able to execute PPP without the partnerships that we have with Numerated and the technology that you provided in your tool set.”
- Choosing the right vendors is an important piece of any Business Continuity Plan. “When we're talking about the pandemic and as it came at us, we have a strong BCP team, because we're in Florida and we know hurricanes,” said Seacoast VP of Service Delivery Devon Taylor. “So our processes were built and ready to go and to be adapted for the pandemic.” To adapt their BCP to a once-in-a-generation pandemic, Devon worked closely with Seacoast SVP and SBA Department Manager Stacy Maclure who described the crunch leading up to the start of PPP as a make or break moment.
“We did consider some other partners at the time, but we already had a relationship with Numerated and it was the perfect fit,” Stacy explained. Having a strong partnership with a fintech to rely on helped Seacoast hit the ground running and allowed them to immediately serve their customers' needs. Reflecting on this partnership, Stacy said “I think when we all started the whole process, we knew exactly where we were going to go and the shifts that we were able to do so quickly and go live basically the day the program stood up was amazing, as we were all in the same situation trying to build out something that didn't exist a few weeks before.”
- Meeting the demand of PPP would have been impossible without automation. For Stacy, she sees proof of this in the struggles of institutions that opted for a brute-force approach.
“Larger banks struggled with all the internal processes, the mass of backlogs, the demands, no customer communication,” she said. “We knew that automation was essential in order for us to do the sheer volume that we couldn't even have anticipated [before the start of PPP]. But we knew quickly that the anticipation that was leading up to [PPP] ... it was huge and we had to have the automation of our technology partners.
“Seacoast, with the help of Numerated, we were able to create a very fast, efficient, banker-led, customer defined process. It was nimble. It was very individualized for the customer. We were able to get them those funds almost immediately from the time the program started.”
- Self-service business banking is as much about efficiency as it is about a great customer experience. While Seacoast customers were provided a banker-led journey through rounds one and two of PPP funding, during round three the bank took full advantage of Numerated’s self-service functionality.
For Seacoast, making self-service available to their borrowers was as much about providing an exceptional customer experience as it was about finding ways to make PPP more efficient inside the bank.
According to Devon, “The amount of people that we had to involve in order to serve our customers reduced drastically with the way that [Numerated has] improved the platform over the year,” adding self-service for PPP originations and Forgiveness.
Putting a finer point on the efficiency gains for Seacoast, Julie added “We went through rounds one and two engaging about 360 employees at Seacoast—which at the time was nearly a third of our bank heads down on PPP and not doing really anything else.”
“This time around, we've been able to run and orchestrate similar volumes with less than 50 people ... a huge efficiency play, a huge scale play allowing us to emerge from the pandemic and allowing us to continue to drive our conventional lending and our conventional customer experiences forward while still orchestrating effective PPP originations and Forgiveness at the same time has been tremendous.”
- The lessons from PPP cannot be forgotten once COVID ends. Speaking on 2021 advice for lenders during the webinar, Devon made an important point about the mentality required to be successful moving forward.
“One of the key [pieces of advice for lenders is] to acknowledge that the world's changed,” Devon said. “The experience for business and consumers, that's starting to blur. People are going to expect that type of experience, and so look for how we can change and adapt and move and make things better for those business customers and make it more like their personal life.”
To hear more from the Seacoast Super Six, watch the webinar replay above.
And, if you’ve enjoyed this content, don’t forget to register for our twice-weekly webinars. Learn more and save your seat to an upcoming session, here.