This story is part of a series that looks at how local small businesses and organizations have been impacted by COVID-19.
Since March, businesses large and small across the U.S. (and globe) have been forced to adapt to new challenges brought forth by COVID-19. Challenges faced span a wide range of areas, like supply and demand imbalance, loss of revenue, unemployment, and the pressure to adapt quickly to new technologies. One local business, Peoples Bank, has met the challenges that surfaced with the pandemic and not only met them but excelled to provide solutions to the hardships faced by so many during this time.
While its flagship location is in downtown Marietta, Peoples Bank has served clients since 1902 and has grown to over 76 full-service branches in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Services offered to both individual and commercial clients range from banking to borrowing to insurance and investing. When COVID-19 hit in March, Peoples Bank leaders sprung into action.
Callie Witkosky, Retail Marketing Specialist for Peoples Bank, shared that the financial institution was able to maintain business as usual throughout the pandemic.
“Other than more frequent sanitizing, hand sanitizers, wearing masks and social distancing, it has been business as normal for front-of-house employees of Peoples Bank. We can proudly say we have been open this entire pandemic to assist our customers!” said Witkosky.
Assisting customers with a business-as-usual mindset meant meeting a challenge head-on and overcoming it through adaptation, embracing new technologies, and identifying alternative strategies to addressing a rising need in services provided.
Associates came together to develop new processes and procedures quickly to adapt to this new environment.Callie Witkosky
Witkosky continued, “We found that our associates are truly living the Peoples Bank motto of Working Together. Building Success. Associates came together to develop new processes and procedures quickly to adapt to this new environment.”
Danielle Bruni, AVP & Branch Manager for Peoples Bank, prioritized the customer experience with the new strategies employed by the Bank.
“In consideration of both customers and employees, we have adapted in many ways. We are now holding many of our meetings through digital platforms, and trying to accommodate our customers’ needs while limiting in-person interaction. We have been really successful in meeting our customers’ needs by using phones, email, and online meetings. We also realize that in-person interaction is sometimes necessary so we accommodate that by wearing masks, social distancing, and having lots of sanitizer available,” said Bruni.
When the US Federal government Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in April with $669 billion in business loans to administer through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Peoples Bank was charged with receiving loan applications as an eligible federally insured bank lender. The need for the SBA PPP to help small businesses was incredibly high and lenders had to act as quickly as they could to prepare to help.
“The SBA Paycheck Protection Program was brand new. We had to come up with a way to help our business clients quickly with a need. We are happy to report we helped 487 businesses in Wood and Washington counties get PPP loans. Across our entire footprint we helped 3,898 businesses with $500 million in loan authorizations,” said Witkosky.
“Many of our customers are struggling financially so it has been a very busy and sometimes overwhelming process to help them through these difficult times. It has been challenging, but rewarding to help with programs like the SBA Paycheck Protection Program,” said Bruni.
Our associates have donated over $50,000 just themselves to local food banks.Callie Witkosky
While the business community was hit hard by the pervasive impact of COVID-19, so was the livelihoods of individuals and families across the U.S. As a financial institution with a large regional footprint, Peoples Bank funnels their charitable contributions through the Peoples Bank Foundation. Since 2003, the Peoples Bank Foundation has contributed about $4.5 million into improving the quality of life for individuals and families. The pandemic inspired additional giving across the region by Peoples Bank.
“We have donated to food banks and food pantries throughout our footprint. Peoples Bank had the opportunity to team up with Joe Burrow to provide more food relief for southeast Ohio. Across the footprint, what is really cool is how our associates have donated over $50,000 just themselves to local food banks,” shared Witkosky.
“The Bank supported local restaurants through purchasing lunches for the staff twice a week during the shutdowns. We also raised thousands for hunger awareness by allowing our staff to donate to wear jeans,” said Bruni.
Despite the obstacles and shifts, Bruni is thankful to be part of such a tight-knit and supportive community.
“We have seen incredible comradery emerge through the stress and difficulties we are all facing. I think we have had to lean on each other and step out of our comfort zones in many ways, and we are closer because of it. The community has been very vocal about their appreciation,” said Bruni.