A Call to Action
The coronavirus pandemic has created an unusual alliance between a small-town banker and a big-name entrepreneur.
Billionaire Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks and is a regular on the TV show “Shark Tank,” was looking for an enterprising bank willing to experiment with products or services designed to provide assistance for borrowers expecting financial difficulty.
Jill Castilla raised her hand — virtually.
“I’m a firm believer that if you’re a community bank CEO or president, by default, you’re a leader,” says Castilla, CEO of The Citizens Bank of Edmond in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“In a time of crisis, leaders have to step up.”
Like many bankers, Castilla saw her bank and employees as “economic first responders.” Beyond offering deferrals and loans through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, she leapt at the chance to collaborate on projects aimed at alleviating financial pressure caused by the unfolding crisis.
The first was an overdraft program that allowed customers of the $292 million bank who were waiting for their stimulus check to proactively withdraw up to $900 of it. And they didn’t incur a fee to do so. Four hundred or so banks contacted her for information on the program’s structure after it made news, she says.
Citizens focused next on simplifying the 11-page application that PPP recipients fill out to receive loan forgiveness, bringing in additional collaborators like Teslar Software and the .bank registry service to set up PPP.bank as the domain name.
That’s where Cuban came in; he provided the funds for server capacity.
Any PPP recipient can use the site to fill out the forgiveness application and submit it to their bank. The initial version of PPP.bank was launched in 10 days — though subsequent changes to the forgiveness application necessitated changes to the site and another launch.
They committed to not collecting or selling any data submitted to the site. They also passed on working with fintechs that wanted to charge for the services or sought the information the site collected.
“We just saw this as leadership,” says Castilla, a U.S. Army veteran.
“This was a call to action to do the right thing.”
Kiah Lau Haslett
/ managing editor of Bank Director