Atlantic Union Bank
Digital loan application portal built in 4 days to bring vital financial support to local communities
Richmond, Virginia, USA
At a Glance
– 26 minutes to complete the loan application process
– 933% increase in new small business accounts in just 2 months
– One of only 21 banks to fund loans in the first week of the scheme
Atlantic Union Bank takes pride in going the extra mile for its customers. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, the bank manages assets worth $17 billion for individuals and businesses on the east coast of the United States. At the heart of Atlantic Union Bank’s service is the knowledge that every transaction holds a deeper meaning for customers: whether helping them to buy a home, start a company, or save for retirement.
Kelly Dakin, Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer at Atlantic Union Bank explains: “We are a relatively small community bank and our customers are at the heart of everything that we do. Our main focus has traditionally been on building strong personal relationships with customers during in-branch interactions. We know they love coming in to talk to our advisors, and often consider us as almost an extension of their family.”
So when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Atlantic Union Bank was quick to realize the impact, especially for small businesses. Kelly Dakin adds: “We saw that lockdowns and social distancing measures would limit trading and mean companies would struggle to pay salaries. The pandemic was potentially devastating for local communities, so we were determined to find ways to help.”
Meanwhile, on 27 March, the U.S. Government introduced the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, including the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Payment Protection Program (PPP), which offered $349 billion in forgivable loans for companies with fewer than 500 employees. Since companies could only access the loan funds through a financial service provider, Atlantic Union Bank aimed to seize the opportunity to help small businesses through the crisis.
Racing against the clock
There was a catch, though. The U.S. government gave banks and credit unions just four days (until 3 April) to get ready to start accepting loan applications. With social distancing measures removing the possibility of in-branch services, banks would have to receive loan requests online—a particular challenge for Atlantic Union Bank as so many customers placed a special value on personal interactions with their advisors. To complicate matters even further, the SBA offered little technical guidance or assistance.
Kelly Dakin continuous: “As well as the government deadline, we wanted to bring emergency loans to our customers as soon as possible. With the clock ticking, we looked for a nimble and flexible technology platform that would enable us to move fast, and that would provide the scalability to handle the unprecedented demand for loans we were expecting. Building our digital channels has been a long-term goal for us, but we now had to accelerate those efforts to find a way to create an online experience to match the high-quality, personalized services that we traditionally delivered in our branches.”
Forging an effective partnership
At the start of the pandemic, Atlantic Union Bank launched a disaster recovery plan, including executive meetings held via Zoom at 08:30 every morning to ensure fast decision making. One meeting led to a move to offer flexible repayment schemes for personal loan customers. Then, on Monday 30 March, the executive team approached Temenos to build an online portal for small business PPP loan applications.
Straight away, Temenos assembled a group of solution architects and developers to work alongside Atlantic Unions Bank’s digital and operations teams. Together, they followed an agile development strategy and used Temenos Infinity to turn the standard two-page PDF-based PPP application form into a user-friendly digital workflow for small businesses to complete via desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.
Kelly Dakin continues: “We were making decisions as rapidly as I have seen in my career in banking. All the stakeholders were right there together, so we were reaching instantaneous decisions. The teams building the solution put in long hours and Temenos was available on speed dial 24/7. During most deployments we expect roadbumps, but with Temenos we resolved every challenge within 30 minutes, keeping things moving forward.”
Providing a slick, intuitive customer experience
Within four days, the application portal was ready to go live. During the digital journey, users simply enter responses to loan eligibility questions, such as their tax codes, payroll details, and how they intend to use the funds. To simplify the process, the bank added quality controls such as help text, searchable lists with prefilled answers, and automatic error messages when users enter incorrect or incomplete information. These steps made filling in the application form as easy as possible for customers that previously relied on face-to-face branch-based interactions and had little experience using digital banking channels.
At any point, users can save and resume the process in their own time. In the final stages, customers add an electronic signature and upload supporting documents—either dragging and dropping relevant forms into the portal, or by photographing them via mobile. If the small business has multiple owners, an automated workflow reaches out to secondary stakeholders to gather their details and signature.
Atlantic Union Bank staff use case management tools to review each submission, add notes, and approve or request more information from the customer. With integrated data extraction features, the bank uploads the application to the SBA’s E-Tran portal, which provides a confirmation number and disburses the funds.
“The Temenos platform provided the ideal combination of a frictionless front-end experience for our customers with an agile back-end system to help our staff check and verify applications. And as a cloud-based solution, Temenos Infinity delivered the elastic scalability that we needed to cope with the flood of submissions. At one time, we had as many as 400 staff accessing the system remotely.”Kelly Dakin, Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer at Atlantic Union Bank
Achieving a tenfold increase in new accounts
On going live on 3 April, Atlantic Union Bank was one of only 54 financial institutions within the entire U.S. Consumer Bankers Association able to accept PPP loan applications, and one of only 21 banks funding loans in the first week of the scheme. By 20 April, the bank had received 6,500 applications and secured $1.4 billion in funds for small businesses, which soon rose to 11,600 and $1.7 billion.
Kelly Dakin continues: “Thanks to our work with Temenos, we were punching well above our weight. We issued 11.1 percent of all PPP loans in Virginia, despite holding 7.5 percent of the deposit share. Major national banks with huge IT budgets took weeks to launch their own PPP application portal. By contrast, we saw tenfold, or a 933 percent, increase in new small business accounts by the end of May.”
On average, small businesses take just 26 minutes to complete the loan application process. The built-in quality controls help to ensure that applicants provide all mandatory information required by the SBA, and minimize delays to the approval and disbursement process.
Atlantic Union Bank earned widespread plaudits within the financial services industry and from the wider media. National publications such as Forbes, Associated Press, and Enterprise Tech ran features on the bank’s rapid PPP launch, while the collaboration between Temenos and Atlantic Union Bank received the prestigious IDC Fintech Rankings Real Results Award for Lending Transformation.
Serving the community
Most importantly, the collaboration with Temenos enabled Atlantic Union Bank to bring vital financial support to local communities. Of all the loans processed by the bank, 85 percent were for less than $150,000, confirming that the funds were reaching smaller companies. Overall, Atlantic Union Bank believes that the 11,600 loans that it processed will have helped between 40,000 and 50,000 employees.
Kelly Dakin continues: “The loans are having a positive impact in the wider community. They mean that employees can keep up mortgage payments, pay their utilities, and purchase key amenities. Our work with Temenos meant that when local businesses needed us, we delivered.”
One happy customer of Atlantic Union Bank revealed: “As the Controller / Bookkeeper for several companies, I’ve been working through the PPP process with a few banks. Atlantic Union Bank and their digital application process was far superior to any others I worked on. They made it easy to submit my application and kept me informed throughout the process.”
Continuing the digital transformation
The huge takeup of the PPP loans also confirms that Atlantic Union Bank has successfully replicated the ease and convenience of traditional branch-based services in a digital format. The bank believes that the speed, simplicity, and intuitive user experience of the loan portal has inspired much greater confidence in its online banking services among customers.
Kelly Dakin continues: “The PPP project has been a real eye-opener for many customers. Our work with Temenos has demonstrated to them that they will receive a high-quality, personalized digital service that mirrors their experiences in our branches. During the summer, we offered virtual meetings with our advisors and launched a digital app to schedule appointments and we saw thousands of bookings, showing that customers were increasingly comfortable with the digital approach.”
Inspired by the success of the PPP project, Atlantic Union Bank is now increasing its focus on other digital channels. Already, many lines of business have requested help to develop their own digital origination portals from the bank’s executive leadership team. With the flexible Temenos solution, the bank has plenty of options for its next steps.
“I have never worked with a vendor who was so committed to us and offered such respect and nimbleness. Temenos took their most senior architects and developers and dedicated them to us; we even did conference calls at 2 a.m. They performed as well as any vendor I have ever worked with. It was a truly unbelievable and inspirational partnership.”Kelly Dakin, Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer at Atlantic Union Bank
*Due to changes in loan demand, this solution is no longer being utilized by the client*