On August 1, 2017, Winter Park National Bank opened its doors to the community as a local banking option that prioritizes personalized service with the first charter of its kind since the Great Recession from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). For nearly three years, the bank has served clients in and around the Winter Park community, its approach evolving during the economic crisis prompted by COVID-19.
In response to the current economic situation, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was designed as a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their employees on payroll. However, during the first tranche of funds, which launched on April 3, many small businesses, including in Winter Park, struggled to attain the loans they needed, as all $349 billion were depleted by April 16. The difficulty that small businesses faced was in large part due to big banks prioritizing funding for their larger clients and subsequently deferring funding for smaller businesses.
After observing how difficult it was for many local businesses to secure loan money, bank leadership recognized that there was going to be many local businesses seeking out institutions to help them survive this difficult economic period and Winter Park National Bank immediately began the process of becoming a Small Business Administration (SBA) certified lender. The bank referred its clients in need of immediate assistance to partner companies until they were approved in time for the second wave of PPP funding.
Once SBA certified, the bank helped over 170 small business clients attain PPP loans, 30% of which were first-time customers. In some cases, bank leaders were able to turn around a PPP loan in just a couple days, a particularly accelerated processing time. The bank was using SBA software for the application portal as opposed to proprietary software and as a smaller community institution, was able to have one team member process an application from start to finish instead of passing it along between departments, as is often the case at bigger banks.
“I think because we are a smaller, more nimble institution we were able to move things along a little bit faster,” said Brian Carlson, vice president / senior loan portfolio manager.
In total, the institution has distributed approximately $23 million in PPP loans to those clients to help local businesses and their employees survive this challenging time. “The purpose of the PPP program was to help our clients through this process,” Carlson said. “It was not so much about the bank as the client. It was rewarding to see how many people we were able to help keep their staff… Part of being a community bank is building relationships with people in the community. We’re not a transactional bank, we’re about relationships. This is just part of helping our clients.”
Of course, attaining the proper certification and taking on a large group of new clients in such a small period required a team dedicated to supporting the financial needs of the community. “The board of Winter Park National Bank is very proud of how management and the employees assisted with the PPP program,” said Jimmy Ferrell, a founding member of the bank’s Board of Directors. “We had many employees that were working weekends and overtime to help with these loans. I am very proud of how we responded in a proactive way to get things done. That is what makes a good community bank: the ability to provide great service. That, to me, epitomizes who Winter Park National Bank is.”