By James M. Gasior
President & CEO, Cortland Bank
CORTLAND – Last year will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of the most challenging, not only from a health perspective but also from a business vantage point.
Cortland Bank quickly adapted to what would become the “new normal,” adjusting lobby operations, working remotely, investing in new health and safety protocols, and utilizing online conferencing platforms to engage associates and customers in virtual meeting rooms.
Cortland played a key role in helping local businesses keep their doors open and move the local economy forward despite the pandemic. During the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, the bank assisted 419 customers in obtaining funds under the government program, providing payroll and operating expense relief of over $56 million.
The business lending team worked tirelessly and often late into the night to ensure that loan requests were processed in a timely fashion.
Lenders worked one-on-one with business owners, as well as consumers, to defer loan obligations, as necessary. Early in the pandemic, the bank had negotiated approximately $130 million in loan deferrals. That amount was down to $16 million by November with most commercial customers returning to regular payment schedules before year-end.
For those hardest-hit sectors, such as hospitality, the bank continues to work flexibly in offering extensions to their payment schedules to accommodate their business needs.
Benefiting from a record low interest rate environment, the bank’s residential lending team produced higher than expected mortgage originations in 2020. Mortgage refinances accounted for about 44% of all residential loan originations with new home sales accounting for the remainder of originations in 2020.
The residential lending team was also active in community outreach initiatives. The bank continues to partner with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. in support of its mission to provide financial resources to achieve neighborhood health.
Prior investments in digital technologies paid off this past year as the pandemic forced more customers to become comfortable with online and mobile banking options offered by Cortland Bank.
Moving into 2021, Cortland Bank remains vigilant in integrating cloud and server-based platforms while exploring emerging technologies as the industry continues to embrace a transformation away from traditional forms of banking.
Online account opening, electronic document signature and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly popular, providing ease of use and flexibility for customers while allowing banks to pursue opportunities for growth in a more efficient manner. The bank will continue to adapt its strategic plan to the new realities while building on current strengths.