As 2020 draws to a close, many of us — me included — are breathing a sigh of relief.
The past 12 months proved more challenging than any in the past decade. Banks and our customers faced adversity and hardship together, working in tandem to navigate a pandemic-fueled economic crisis, and we will emerge from it stronger.We have much to be proud of and much work still to be done.
Banks thrived on the opportunity to serve as economic first responders when we swooped in to rescue thousands of small businesses and tens of thousands of jobs, disbursing Paycheck Protection Program funds on behalf of the government. In a matter of two weeks, borrowers banked $10.4 billion via 100,000 loans, keeping their employees paid and their doors open.
Now, we’re advocating that those funds be treated as they were intended — grants. If those “loans” aren’t forgiven, our customers will be on the hook to pay back loans in a small amount of time when they count on them to be forgiven. We are working to ensure those funds won’t be treated as taxable income, adding further stress to already financially constricted customers.
We have seen some success in our efforts — ensuring loans under $50,000 will be forgiven — but we remain focused on securing the same relief for loans under $150,000, with more streamlined processing for loans bigger than those.
We will be redoubling our efforts around many points reiterated during CBA’s 10-part webinar series focused on COVID-19’s impacts on Colorado’s economy — because we know the shockwave of this pandemic is far from over. Some customers will continue to experience financial stress, while others haven’t yet begun to feel the impact, but it is coming.
Experts told us Colorado’s residential real estate market heated up during the first several months of the pandemic, with an influx of people moving to our state because they see it as friendly to the remote working environment, driving prices up and inventory down. Existing Coloradans took advantage of low-interest rates by refinancing their mortgages. Still, others have been offered forbearance and relief from collection actions.
Banks are readying themselves to help those borrowers should challenge arise. Commercial real estate borrowers — particularly those in the retail sector — will continue to experience severe constriction. Tourism and hospitality industry experts don’t expect to see a real recovery any time soon.
We must keep a watchful eye on our customers to help them mitigate hardship and ensure they are aware of workout options they can employ.
Meanwhile, we must not lose sight of ongoing industry challenges not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks remain entangled in the conflict of federal and state laws regarding cannabis banking, anti-money laundering reform is still pending. We will be carefully monitoring the Federal Reserve’s work to create FedNow, its own faster payments system. Work continues against the ill-advised move by the GSEs (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to increase refinancing costs by 50 basis points. While the increase was initially slated to become effective in September, it was delayed until December.
Here in Colorado, the industry is poised to combat renewed attempts to create a state or municipal-owned bank to restrict consumer-friendly arbitration clauses in contracts and potential new moratoriums or restrictions on foreclosures, evictions and debt collection.
While none of us knows for sure what 2021 will bring our customers or us — or when we may see the end of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic — I do know for sure that our industry will do what it has done so many times before: adapt and lead.
Our work will be bolstered by CBA, which will remain a reliable source of information, resources and support as we navigate those crowded waters — and help our customers in doing so, too.
Nathan serves as Regional Vice President, responsible for leading teams that work with businesses in eastern Colorado and western Nebraska. His primary role is to fulfill client needs quickly and efficiently. He focuses on building relationships that last. In his experience, this is the best way to understand customer needs and to proactively help them meet their financial and life goals.