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COVID-19: A Crash Course in Banking, Part 2

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June 18, 2020

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at our family’s cabin in historic Elkmont, just outside of Gatlinburg.  It was there that my dad taught us how to identify snakes, so we’d know which ones were safe to pick up and which should be left alone. Our favorite thing was searching the old rock walls for snakes, and pulling them out of their holes to admire before returning them to their crevices. I don’t remember ever being afraid of snakes, because I was open to finding out more about them and taught to respect them and their place in nature. It was a learning process, one that’s continued to this day.

Believe it or not, my snake experiences have a lot in common with my current position as a bank trainee, especially these past few months.

snake in a tree

First, a desire and willingness to learn is where it all starts. Second, it’s fascinating to see firsthand how every role is important, purposeful and deserving of respect, whether that’s clear from the outside or not.  Within our bank’s ‘ecosystem,’ I’m learning firsthand how much our employees have to offer and how our departments, though different in many ways, all play a vital role in keeping the bank running smoothly.

Finally, the unique circumstances brought on by the coronavirus have reminded me a lot of those stone walls from my childhood – a mystery filled with opportunities.  On March 30, amid the global pandemic, I was privileged to become a part of a remarkable team of WBT employees from various offices, departments and regions.  We had one goal: get the funds for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program into the hands of small businesses so they could continue paying their employees through these unprecedented times.  My role specifically has been to track each application’s progress through this complex process, so I have been fortunate to see the files go from their infancy to their final destination.

I’ve also seen how hard each part of the team has worked to get the applications submitted and funded successfully. I’m not sure who coined the term ‘banker’s hours,’ but that person clearly had no part in our PPP team’s operations. Many long days and nights were needed to get things done during the first round of funding, and even into round two, including a few overnight shifts for some. I was a bit concerned, but equally impressed, by the volume of coffee and energy drinks consumed in that phase.

Hearing from friends in other states who have applied for PPP loans, and listening to their struggles, I truly appreciate the efforts I have seen from inside our team. Our bank really cares about our customers, and has gone above and beyond to help businesses in our community. Now that new applications have slowed and our focus has shifted to the forgiveness aspect of the program, I’ve been impressed again by our team’s commitment to absorbing the ever-changing information and helping our customers finish the process step by step.

It’s been a wild ride these first few months in the training program, but I guess things probably haven’t gone as planned for anyone lately, and the experience has turned out to be a great one for me professionally - like the thrill of coming up on an interesting creature of nature when you weren’t really expecting to find anything. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every learning opportunity and the relationships I’ve developed with a diverse group of amazing people, and I know my time with the PPP team will remain one of the highlights of my trainee journey.

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