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Seizing Opportunity During Challenging Times

Jennifer Frost

Executive Vice President, Deputy Chief Administration Officer, Customers Bank

Innovative executives approach their job with the perspective of a problem solver. When a challenge presents itself, these business leaders use the roadblock as an opportunity to reevaluate. Ford is a great example, as the automaker put its resources and talent to work to produce medical equipment and supplies to support the national response to COVID-19. This shift in strategy enabled the business to keep operating and kept its workers employed during a time when some companies had to shut down completely.

Many of us witnessed firsthand how Coronavirus stay-at-home orders quickly changed the business landscape across the U.S. – many companies faced the most significant challenges they had ever encountered. Adaptability and agility were key differentiators as businesses adapted to a world where the majority was encouraged to stay home for their safety. Companies that could enable remote workforces had to quickly introduce new digital capabilities to support socially distanced Team Members who were forced to work entirely from home.

At Customers Bank, we took action immediately. Expanding digital capabilities and the pace of our digital transformation timeline had even greater importance now that our ability to stay connected and provide the same level of service to customers was one hundred percent reliant on our digital capability. We introduced many digital tools, including Microsoft Teams, DocuSign, Online Business Account Opening, as well as expanded our use of the Salesforce platform. And we enhanced current capabilities to support customers, socially distanced work environments, and remote Team Members.

A top priority for us was enabling collaboration between remote Team Members. Our goal was to help teams stay agile and set up to create solutions quickly. Video conferencing quickly replaced cell phone calls. After evaluating multiple services and capabilities, we identified Microsoft Teams as the most stable and robust platform to support Team Member collaboration. In short order, the group in charge of the Microsoft Teams integration developed a Tips and Tricks knowledge center on the bank’s intranet that provided a video training library and links to access additional resources easily. Business units across the bank quickly realized the benefits of MS Teams and the ability to share relevant information with specific coworkers, which increased efficiency and led to greater revenue growth.

We also put a heavy focus on enabling digital tools to better serve customers from the comfort and safety of their homes. In under two weeks, the bank’s implementation of DocuSign moved from a small pilot phase to expanded use for all customer-facing documentation. This rapid acceleration enabled the bank to increase customer convenience by accepting digital signatures for every product.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Paycheck Protection Program further reshuffled the priorities at Customers Bank. We knew we had to move quickly to help our small business customers, new and existing, keep employees on the payroll and maintain their operations. We understood the immediate ramifications for business owners and employees, as well as how these loans would support the long term economic recovery by making sure companies didn’t need to ramp up hiring and training once it was safe to re-establish pre-COVID-19 capacity.

To handle the massive demand for SBA PPP loans, the bank leveraged internal technologies and introduced new capabilities to handle bulk uploads of loan applications into core systems. This advancement in technological capabilities made it possible for the bank to handle large batches of loans that would have been unmanageable if entered manually. The new efficiencies also helped us serve a broader number of business clients across the nation and provide timely updates on the status of their loan applications.

COVID-19 presented many challenges for communities, the economy, and families. It also provided an opportunity for organizations to embrace agility and quicker adoption of digital tools and technologies that may have been further down the pipeline. At Customers Bank, we sped up our digital transformation timeline to help both our customers and Team Members succeed. The accelerated timeline also made room for us to focus on new priorities moving forward, which will further support our 2020 mission of becoming a digital company that provides financial services to help our customers succeed. I look forward to sharing more about what’s next in the coming months while we continue to leverage the capabilities and tools that were introduced during the last few months of rapid adaption.