Bridgewater Bank Helps Toss a Lifeline to Small Businesses
As businesses look for ways to stay afloat and keep their employees paid through the pandemic, they’ve flocked to banks for loans through the Small Business Association’s Payroll Protection Program. Places like Bridgewater Banks have been there to field the storm of applicants.
Chief operating officer Mary Jayne Crocker said the locally-founded full-service bank has made rapid transitions to keep employees safe while continuing to provide essential services. Just last week, Bridgwater announced it was approved for $152.6 million in PPP loans.
As of last week, it had approved 594 applicants, after receiving more than twice as many applications. The bank continues to still accept PPP inquiries via its website. Though the first round of PPP funding has already run out, bank leaders are hopeful that additional federal dollars will soon become available.
TCB: How has Bridgewater Bank changed or been disrupted by the pandemic?
Crocker: We have seven branches across the Twin Cities, and we are now operating out of three of them. We have two branches that have drive-thrus, and those drive-thrus are still fully functioning as they normally would. Then we have another branch that we have people coming in by appointment only. Plus, we’ve added an ATM to that lobby, and also night drops. Instead of going into the branches, people are now either using the drive-thrus, their online banking platforms, or dropping money off for deposits through night drops
We did not have a remote workforce prior to this pandemic. We didn’t have anyone working from home, and within the course of two weeks we were able to allow everyone to work from home with the exception of people that are serving our branches. We went to a probably 80 percent remote workforce in two weeks.
Q: Have you lost any business because of the pandemic? Or has it been more of the opposite?
A | We certainly haven’t lost any clients. And it is actually the opposite. We are helping with the Payroll Protection Program. So we probably are adding clients because of that program. We are fielding inquiries for that, and then we’re lending money out to the people using that program. So we’re doing that for clients and non-clients. I think that means that we’re expanding our client base. We’re actually still fielding a lot of applications.
Q: How do you plan to weather the impending recession?
A | I think we have an amazing team. We have the right people to make the right decisions so that we’re handling whatever is to come.
Q: Are there any bright spots that you’re personally seeing in the crisis?
A | What I’m seeing in the crisis right now is just the willingness of people to step up and participate and help others. I’m also seeing people slow down; there are a lot more people out walking. You see a lot more people enjoying the outdoors, so that’s good. I guess the silver lining in all of this is just seeing how people can adapt and then seeing how willing people are to step up to whatever the challenge is. I don’t know how many times you can send an email out to the team and say “thank you,” but it really has been impressive to see how people have rallied. They just met the situation head on. That’s really impressive to see.
Q: How are you keeping morale up for yourself and employees?
A | Personally, I do a yoga class everyday, and then I walk. But for our employees, we’ve tried to make sure that we stay in touch with them every day. We’ve done like virtual happy hours, we sent a number of people lunch. Our health and wellness committee has created a weekly newsletter that gives people a bunch of tips on meditation. It’s always got some funny pictures, and some tips for workspaces. A lot of what we’ve done is just trying to keep people engaged and let people know that there’s lots of ways to interact and to stay connected.
Q: What is your best advice for everyone on staying productive and not going stir-crazy?
A | I have a son who has worked from home for a couple of years. So when we first started this, I was like, “What’s your advice?” He said to keep your work day to your work day. He suggested “commuting” to your office. That could mean walking around the block, or going and getting coffee and then going into your office. And he said to make sure you take your normal breaks. So, make sure you take a lunch break and make sure you get a cup of coffee or tea or something. Then, it’s wise to shut down your computer at a specific time, remove yourself, and not let it interfere with other family things that you have to do. That’s helped me. Somebody else said it’s a marathon not a sprint. And I think that was helpful advice, too.
Q: What’s your work at home setup like?
A | My kids are all grown up so they’re all out of the house; I’m thankful I don’t have little kids at this point in time. But my husband’s at home, too. He has his own office, and I have the sun porch and get to look out the back. I’ve seen a lot of deer, a lot of coyotes, a lot of turkeys, so that’s kind of fun. It’s not often you can sit in the sun room and just look outside.