By Cary Hegreberg, President/CEO of the Montana Bankers Association
Montana’s banking industry is strong, well-capitalized, and stands ready to help consumers and small businesses weather the economic crisis caused by a pandemic that is forcing people out of work and many small businesses to temporarily close their doors. Community banks throughout Montana have stood the test of time, serving people and businesses with federally insured deposit accounts, loans and financial services. That commitment has not wavered.
The Montana Bankers Association, through our national affiliate the American Bankers Association, is working hourly with Congress, state and federal regulatory agencies, the Small Business Administration, and other entities to assure that consumers and small businesses impacted by the Coronavirus will have continued access to credit and other financial services. Federal regulators have been extremely empathetic and proactive in recognizing that many individuals and businesses, through no fault of their own, will be unable to make scheduled loan payments.
At this moment, the SBA is rushing to find ways of immediately infusing cash into the hands of business owners so they can retain employees and meet financial obligations. Regulators are giving banks latitude to restructure loans, and provide other relief measures for borrowers, as long as sound lending principles are applied. We encourage those who anticipate difficulty making timely loan payments to contact your banker as soon as possible to discuss options. The sooner discussions begin, the more options will be available.
Like any business, a bank’s first concern is for the health and safety of its employees and customers. In some cases, banks may temporarily close branch lobbies, but leave drive-through services and ATMs open. Remote, internet banking services will continue to serve the needs of many customers. Elderly people requiring personal banking services, but concerned about vulnerability, are urged to call the branch manager and request an appointment, with extraordinary precautions taken prior to arrival.
Montana’s community banks take their commitment and obligation to the people and businesses in their communities very seriously, and our industry will do everything in our power to provide the financial services needed for local economies to function and to prosper in the future. The Montana Bankers Association also wants to remind Montanans that every bank in Montana insures deposits through the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which oversees the safety and soundness of banks throughout the U.S. The safest place in the world for your money is your local bank.