Simplifying a Complex Process: Helping Our Customers Prepare for PPP Loan Forgiveness
By Brenda Hurst, Head of Change Management, US Retail Banking, in Irving, Texas June 04, 2020 01:00 PM
During my decade at Citi, I have had the opportunity to oversee a number of large-scale projects, ranging from the transformation of our mortgage business to streamlining our branch footprint. Without a doubt, however, overseeing Citi's planning and preparation to help our customers navigate the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness process has been the most intense because of the extremely short timeline and the absolute need to get this right for our clients.
Fortunately, our leaders are investing in the end-to-end process to streamline the experience. This involves supplementing resources – upwards of 500 people – to build out customer assistance teams, as well as technology that enables customers to manage PPP loans in our app, and client education that includes a dedicated website, online tutorials and educational seminars for borrowers.
The PPP loan forgiveness process, which will begin shortly, is far more complicated than getting the loan in the first place because there are many options with forgiveness, including full forgiveness, partial forgiveness, and some small business owners who may choose not to pursue forgiveness at all. There is also the complexity of interest calculation based on an SBA approved 6-month payment deferral, as well as the timeframe the SBA has to review forgiveness submissions versus when customers begin to make payments against any outstanding portion.
While the guidelines for PPP loan forgiveness remain highly complex and continue to change, our ability to educate and assist our customers will be critical to ensuring that they receive all of the forgiveness to which they are entitled as quickly as possible.
To that end, it starts with education. We've been holding internal calls twice per week to help our bankers and wealth advisors prepare and, in my free time, I have been reviewing online tutorials posted by accountants to get the widest view possible of the concerns small business owners have in order to make sure that our tutorials are the best and most informative for our clients. This week, we held the first of a regular series of customer webcasts to provide helpful tips on the forgiveness process, including SBA guidelines and frequently asked questions. Engagement has been strong – Nearly 800 questions from 750 small business owners. Additionally, we have launched a dedicated PPP loan forgiveness webpage that includes useful information, links and FAQs for customers and Citi staff alike.
Resources are critical, too. Since many of our colleagues are still working with small businesses to originate new PPP loans as long as SBA funds remain, we have secured additional resources and tapped outside firms with loan processing expertise to augment our teams as we process forgiveness applications to ensure that we have as many hands on deck as possible from the outset. After PPP funds are exhausted, these colleagues will shift over to support the forgiveness effort.
The team we've assembled has been working around the clock remotely, juggling our home and our work lives. On a personal note, as a mother of three, it's been great to be home for my youngest as she completes her final year of high school and prepares for college. And to show her how her mom is working to do my part to help our communities recover.
Ultimately, it's about making the complex as simple as possible, which, at the end of the day, is what we strive to achieve for all of our clients.