KeyBank’s Melissa Ingwersen on finding small businesses for PPP
Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Carrie Ghose
June 4, 2021
KeyBank is not among the 15 largest U.S. banks by asset size, but it was No. 7 in the country in PPP lending, with $11 billion in approvals in the 13-month program that ended May 31.
The Cleveland-based regional bank also was the third-largest Paycheck Protection Program lender to Ohio-based businesses, with $1.97 billion in approved first and second loans, according to a Columbus Business First review of data released this week.
Key actively sought out minority-owned businesses that were disproportionately shut out of the program nationwide, said Melissa Ingwersen, Central Ohio market president.
“Round one of PPP was literally like a firehose,” Ingwersen said in an interview ahead of her July 31 retirement. “The rules were changing … almost hourly.
“We spent April (2020) really heads down in what we’ve called crazy town. By the end of April, we all were able to kind of lift up and say, ‘Who are we missing?’ ” she said. “And how do we find them or get to them? Because many of these kinds of businesses were not ones that were coming into our branches or perhaps known to some of our bankers.”
Starting in April 2020, Key asked groups including the Columbus Urban League and the Economic and Community Development Institute for referrals to sole proprietors and small businesses in underserved populations.
“Key was incredibly supportive last spring and to date, making sure we were kept abreast of updates (and) deadlines,” J. Averi Frost, program manager for Urban League’s Minority Small Business Resiliency Initiative, said in an email.
The bank also helped walk business owners through the application. Everyone involved in PPP needed help, Ingwersen said, including the bankers.
“It was infinitely harder to make sense of the rules that even we in the industry were having difficulty making sense with,” Ingwersen said. “If you didn’t have someone guiding you, you might get lost along the way. And remember in the first round there was a huge fear that the money was going to run out in like three weeks. It didn’t (deplete that quickly), but there was such a rush for the money, it created this franticness.”
Besides punching above its weight in PPP, Key participated in other federal coronavirus relief programs for businesses, including the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program. Other assistance to businesses and consumers included loan forbearance and waived overdraft and check-cashing fees, such as for federal stimulus checks.
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