Doing well by doing good – together
At the end of March, the United States’ Congress approved the CARES Act, releasing $2 trillion of needed funding—much of it intended to assist America’s struggling small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in the days and weeks following, it became clear that while larger banks, businesses, and organizations were navigating the program successfully, smaller businesses and lenders were having trouble breaking through.
One of the things I most enjoy at Finastra is leading a team that is 100% committed to finding new and innovative ways for people and businesses to easily access the financial resources and technology they need to be successful. With a customer base of 4,200 banks, credit unions and trusts in the United States – nearly half of which are small lenders – our company recognizes the challenges that these institutions face. So as underserved businesses tried to navigate the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) system, we coordinated with our investment partner, Robert Smith, CEO and Founder of Vista Equity Partners, and put 200 of our employees to work on a solution, using our technology and our design capabilities, to offer vital help.
By April 6 – just a few days after the PPP window opened – we had built a working program that allowed applicants to send their information to the Small Business Administration (SBA) electronically, with features like an online notary and eSignature that are often more difficult for small businesses to access. We immediately started offering the software for free to smaller community banks and credit unions. We brought it to the National Bankers Association and the Alliance of African-American CDFI CEOs, and used their networks to reach underserved communities hit hardest by the pandemic. In the first 24 hours, 500 banks downloaded our software, and small businesses around the country began to apply for crucial funds. To date, this solution has already helped hundreds of lenders process more than 100,000 loans… and still counting.
The people here who designed the software are extraordinarily talented, but what makes me even more proud is that, at Finastra, the motivation that drove them to make a difference is commonplace. We have always placed social responsibility at the heart of our culture, using our technology, talent and network to build a platform for positive social change. We believe strongly in the idea of doing well by doing good. Whether we’re helping to bank the unbanked, teaching kids to code through the “Hour of Code” program, or using our financial resources to support people and places where we live and work, we value our opportunity to improve the wellbeing of our customers and our community.
That commitment is even more important today. We are living through an unprecedented challenge – and in the rush to develop solutions, it can be easy to overlook systemic problems. But, if we want to make progress, we need to make sure that we are paying attention to the businesses and communities that need our help the most. We need to look for opportunities to help our most vulnerable, rather than waiting for those in need to find us. We need to remember that we are all in this together, and we must put our collective knowledge and skills to work to help one another.
I am proud of the work that Finastra has done to make PPP loans accessible, but I am under no illusion that PPP access will be the last obstacle that small businesses and vulnerable communities face. There is no doubt that, as we continue to live with the fallout from the pandemic, our ingenuity and capacity for adaptation will be tested. If we make common cause with our larger community and use our success to help others, I am confident that we can navigate this path to emerge stronger together.