Why Bangor Savings Bank Went from Manual PPP Loan Originations to Automated PPP Forgiveness

Sal Trifilio

Sal Trifilio

September 16, 2020

Bangor Savings Bank is a $5.5B financial institution located in the small New England city of Bangor, Maine. With 59 branches across their home state and neighboring New Hampshire, Bangor Savings has been a cornerstone of their communities for more than 165 years, and their commitment to the customer experience led Forbes to name the financial institution the No. 9 Bank in the World for 2020.

For Jim Donnelly, Chief Commercial Officer at Bangor Savings, the recognition is important because “our customers are saying that they enjoy the way we treat them and the services we deliver, and how we deliver it.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached American shores, it was this sense of commitment to their local customers and businesses that pushed Jim and his team to make an extraordinary effort to accommodate not just their customers, but many others affected by the crisis in their region as well.

On Sep. 15, Jim joined our Tuesday Weekly Q&A session for a fireside chat on how his institution navigated PPP originations and why their approach to Forgiveness is slightly different.

According to Jim, when Congress announced the Paycheck Protection Program many banks were hesitant to participate because of a lack of guidance from the SBA. At Bangor Savings, the government agency’s constant changing of the rules and procedures created a headache, but it didn’t keep Bangor from rolling up their sleeves in an effort to save local businesses.

Feeling the pressure to act quickly to meet the coming demand—and with just two E-Tran credentials in hand—Jim and his team set off to set up a process to manually process PPP loans.

Thousands of Hours Lost: The Intensity of Manual PPP Loan Originations

Setting up a new, large-scale manual process takes a lot of planning as Jim explained in our fireside chat.

First, Bangor Savings had to understand how long it would take to process a single application manually—and their testing showed it would take about 15-30 minutes, each. 

Next, Jim and his team needed to determine how many more E-Tran credentials they’d need and how much manpower would be required to complete this process at scale; preparation for PPP Originations determined they’d need about 300 employees on this project (including about 200 volunteers) and more than a dozen more E-Tran credentials to meet demand without compromising Bangor’s best-in-class customer experience.

But, even getting this manual process down to an almost exact science couldn’t prepare Jim and his team for the crush of demand they’d see when the doors opened for the Program.

“I thought we would do a thousand [PPP loans]. I had no idea, you know, that we’d do over 4,000,” Jim said, adding that in a typical year Bangor processes about 200-300 SBA loans. When it was all said and done, Bangor Savings processed a full 20 percent of all PPP loans done in Maine, a quarter of which represented net new relationships for the bank.

But the feat didn’t come without personal sacrifice. Accomplishing this required a herculean effort from every member of the financial institution. According to Jim, “we had people working between 5AM and 2AM every day until we caught up” to demand.

Reflecting on the manual process he and his team set up, Jim said he wished they had invested in technology “a year ago” so they would have been prepared for PPP. By his calculation, implementing a PPP Originations platform could have saved Bangor Savings “thousands” of person hours.

“So we're more committed than ever to making those [technology] investments and making those partnerships so that we don't put ourselves, or our customers in that position, and for the number of hours that we could have saved,” Jim said.

Walking the Walk: Investing in Technology that Makes PPP Forgiveness Easy

For Jim and Bangor Savings, they’re not just talking the talk on investing in technology, they’ve actually already invested in new technology since the close of PPP originations.

Wasting no time, Jim took the experience from their manual PPP loan originations experience and turned it into action for PPP Forgiveness.

“It was good that we have good people,” Jim said, discussing the all-hands-on-deck effort that made PPP originations successful. But a lack of technology meant “we asked them to do things we shouldn’t have, because we didn't invest in technology early,” he said.

The intensely manual process, at scale, did help the bank identify weaknesses in their process and where “cracks and stresses” exist, however. This allowed them to better understand the technology they needed to make the next phase of the Program even more successful.

It’s with that in mind that Bangor Savings decided to leverage Numerated’s Forgiveness Platform to help automate much of the workflow associated with PPP Forgiveness. Whether banker-led or self-served, business customers of all sizes have been able to successfully submit their PPP Forgiveness applications with Bangor Savings Bank.

According to Jim, more than 500 Forgiveness apps have been submitted with great feedback from customers, and he says the bank plans on doing proactive outreach in the coming days to get more apps in as the potential for “automatic forgiveness” remains stalled in Congress.

Learn more about Bangor Savings’ PPP Originations and Forgiveness Experience

As a community bank playing an outsized role for their businesses during the Paycheck Protection Program, Bangor Savings has a unique perspective on the role technology can play in providing an exceptional customer experience.

To learn more about Bangor Savings’ experience with PPP Originations and Forgiveness, watch the full 30-min fireside chat above.

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