The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided a vital lifeline to small and midsized businesses when COVID-19 took a heavy toll on the economy in 2020. The Small Business Administration (SBA) leveraged financial institutions as conduits for government-guaranteed loans to businesses that could be forgiven provided the borrower complied with program requirements.
Financial institutions were presented with challenges related to managaing loan forgiveness. These challenges were compounded by the stress of another round of PPP loans, which was then authorized.
The complexity surrounding forgiveness, particularly for smaller borrowers, increased due to the uncertainty generated by the frequent modifications to the program following the funding of loans (but prior to forgiveness).
The process was particularly challenging for smaller businesses that lack the resources or sophistication of larger businesses. The end result was that financial institutions struggled to effectively manage competing demands on their time, money and staff.
A bank with total assets in excess of $6 billion faced a daunting task: It needed a third-party solution to manage the process of forgiveness for approximately 4,000 loans totaling more than $1 billion, issued through the first round of PPP funds. Recognizing the scope and urgency of the challenge, RSM worked with the bank to develop a proprietary solution that integrated technology to automate many of the information-gathering tasks with advisory resources, including a help desk (both virtual and via phone) staffed by RSM professionals knowledgeable on loan operations and the PPP program.
The solution capitalized on two of RSM’s strengths: technical know-how and industry experience. RSM was able to manage the loan forgiveness process for the bank, helping it speed the approvals and free up its limited staff to focus on other tasks.
The technology solution: RSM developed an automated process that facilitated and optimized information-gathering tasks, guiding the borrowers through the SBA’s forgiveness requirements. RSM achieved this through an online portal, partnering with market-leading cloud-based, low-code platform Appian, in a way that did not impact the bank’s IT infrastructure.
Once the borrower submitted required information along with the forgiveness application, the RSM team reviewed the documents for accuracy and completeness. Complete submissions approved by the RSM analyst were forwarded to the bank for final approval; incomplete submissions were returned to the borrower along with the RSM analyst’s instructions on necessary revisions. Packages approved by designated bank personnel were sent to the SBA for final forgiveness approval. This process flow, particularly the initial review by the RSM analyst, saved the bank resources hundreds of hours and eased the burden on the bank.
The borrower factor: As effective as the automated solution was, however, small businesses inevitably had questions—and that’s where RSM’s advisory practice filled the gap. RSM established a call center staffed by a team of experienced lending professionals ready to help guide borrowers in the forgiveness application process. The center handled more than 200 calls a week, with minimal hold times.
Mike Courtney, an RSM partner specializing in digital solutions, highlighted the benefit of the call center: “If a business calls a bank two or three times with questions, and the bank has made hundreds—or even thousands—of loans, those calls can add up and strain a bank’s resources. RSM takes care of all that.”
Courtney also pointed out that RSM’s forgiveness solution is done under the aegis of the bank—so when a borrower calls the help desk, that individual is speaking to the bank, not to RSM.
By partnering with RSM, the bank successfully processed more than 1,000 loans in the first three weeks of the program’s operation. Though SBA requirements were changing throughout this time, the agility of RSM’s technology and advisory team meant these changes were incorporated into the workflow in near real time.
In the end, RSM’s solution allowed the bank to offer borrowers a faster, more accurate application process that not only made for a more satisfied customer base, but allowed bank personnel to maintain their focus on other pertinent priorities.