Demonstrating Our Industry’s Commitment To Tennessee—And Each Other

By Colin Barrett, President/CEO, Tennessee Bankers Association

Tennessee bankers’ commitment to their communities and customers has never been on greater display than it has throughout the past month. In just 30 days, you processed 75,006 PPP loans worth $8.95 billion. In Tennessee the average loan amount was just $118,860. These represent small businesses that are the backbone of the economy. 

This was not an easy process. The guidance received from Treasury was delivered long after Secretary Mnuchin and President Trump told small businesses they could get these loans. But you made it work. In a short period of time, the vast majority of eligible businesses in Tennessee were approved for PPP loans. 
What I have appreciated most about this process is the way our industry came together to work through this process. These loans helped people care for their families and were possible because of the long hours each of you put forth.

From the beginning, our state SBA team—LaTanya Channel, Lisa Denson and Maria Lloyd—worked with banks to onboard them into SBA’s CFAS portal. While they were awaiting direction from Treasury like the rest of us, they stood with our banks throughout the process.

The federal regulators wasted no time in providing guidance to help our banks work with troubled borrowers and announced temporary regulatory relief in key operations areas that were impacted by the pandemic. While I have no doubt we will be working with them closely in the months ahead to ensure this flexibility continues, their response to bankers’ concerns has been exceptional.

Speaking of regulators, Commissioner Greg Gonzales continued to provide steady leadership on the state level and elevated industry concerns directly to Governor Bill Lee. As a result, the Governor was well informed and complimentary of the work being done within our industry. Not all states had the vocal support of their elected leadership like we did in Tennessee.

In Washington, every member of our Congressional delegation was responsive to the needs of our banks. Our Senators and House members not only assisted with helping banks gain access to E-Tran, but they also became our biggest advocates in pushing Treasury for much needed guidance.

And you cannot mention industry support without acknowledging Jim Brown of NFIB and Bradley Jackson of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce. They were incredible partners as we worked to educate small businesses on the PPP and other actions banks were taking to work with troubled borrowers.

I also want to acknowledge the enthusiastic efforts put forward by the TBA staff during this time. During 18-hour days, including weekends, our team responded to bankers’ needs and were a resource for HR professionals, compliance officers and lenders. They also provided up-to-the-minute updates to the Governor, Congressional delegation and state legislators. And they highlighted bankers’ efforts through statewide press releases, media interviews and social media. Their commitment to Tennessee banking has never shone brighter.

Andy Davies, facilitator of our CEO and Senior Lender Forums, led calls twice weekly for our lenders in the state. Connie Edwards,  facilitator of the Senior Compliance Officer Forums, conducted regular compliance officer calls as well. These valuable communications allowed for the facilitation of peer learning at a critical time.

Credit is also owed to the ABA and ICBA, whose depth of knowledge and messaging on behalf of the industry was invaluable. I am a strong believer in the value of our national trade associations, and their work during this time demonstrated why.

And last, but most importantly, I want to thank our bankers who stepped up, not only for their customers and communities, but for each other. While it is always dangerous to start naming names, I know that between Mary Beth Baker at Powell Valley National Bank and Gay Dempsey at Bank of Lincoln County, they helped over 100 bankers navigate E-Tran and Treasury guidance. Countless more led phone calls and answered questions from peers across the state, most of whom they didn’t even know and at a time when bankers were working around the clock to help their customers. 

Special recognition also goes to TBA Chairman Mott Ford who led your Association through CEO calls and behind-the-scenes efforts, all while successfully leading his own bank.

While I want to celebrate the success of the industry, I also want to acknowledge the challenges. The Treasury picked winners and losers by randomly deciding when and which banks would receive the ability to make PPP loans. Delayed guidance often put us in a frustrating position. And, as I write this, we still do not know what the future phases of recovery will look like as bankers and borrowers work through their PPP loans. Many challenges lie ahead, both economic and health, but I am confident we will overcome them. Together

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