Valley Bank of Nevada’s call to action

James Blood and James York of Valley Bank of Nevada

James S. Blood (left) and James R. York of Valley Bank of Nevada won over new business due to their slick handling of PPP loans earlier this year. Photo: Jacob Kepler

When small businesses seeking Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were turned away from other banks, Valley Bank of Nevada came to their rescue. It manually processed millions in PPP loans for existing customers while winning over dozens of new ones.

By Rebecca Lubecki

Name: Valley Bank of Nevada
Assets: $201 million
Location: Las Vegas


Quick stat

50

of Valley Bank of Nevada’s 154 Paycheck Protection Program customers were new clients

When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened small businesses, many saw the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as a lifeline to maintain employment and wages. Due to overwhelming need for the Small Business Administration (SBA) program, some larger banks weren’t able to distribute loans to all of their customers. This was more than an opportunity for $201 million-asset Valley Bank of Nevada in Las Vegas to showcase its commitment to meeting its customers’ needs. It was also a call to action.

“From the beginning of the program, we embraced the whole process,” says James S. Blood, cofounder, executive vice president and chief credit officer for Valley Bank. “We knew [the PPP] was only for a limited time period, but we also looked into the future, seeing what else we could do for the rest of the year if we were going to help our clients. It was really a matter of: ‘We’re a community bank.’”

James R. York, the community bank’s president, CEO and founder, said customers were hearing from CPAs and in the news that, because PPP money was going to run out, they needed to submit applications immediately. The phones (both work and personal) at Valley Bank were ringing constantly into the evenings and weekends as customers tried to keep their businesses afloat.

Hard work pays off

Valley Bank’s process for staying on top of the high application volume was simple, but it involved a lot of hard work, long hours and dedication. York says they stuck to a manual process.

“We didn’t have an automation process like the big banks do. It was all paper documents and approvals submitted to us,” he adds. “We had to do a lot after hours in the first tranche [of the PPP] because the SBA E-Tran processing site was so backed up. The first week, we couldn’t even get on it, and then it wasn’t until evening where we could get into the system and enter the loans to get an authorization number.”

Blood says staff kept constant communication with clients and would prep the applications during the day, then take them home to process when the SBA E-Tran site would have less traffic. Employees processed paperwork in the evenings and on weekends.

“We did [PPP applications] faster with a better attitude, with a smile on our face and did the job. I think that made the difference between us and the other banks.”
—James S. Blood, Valley Bank of Nevada

Their dedication didn’t go unnoticed. Valley Bank started getting more calls, but this time, they were referrals from clients’ friends who banked with another bank but couldn’t get their PPP applications processed.

“We wanted to basically help the community. That’s why we’re here,” Blood says. “So, we embraced both our clients and even referrals. We did them faster with a better attitude, with a smile on our face and did the job. I think that made the difference between us and the other banks.”

In a testimonial she recorded for the bank, Dr. Emily Browner, owner of Mesa Dental in Las Vegas, says she had a positive experience applying for a PPP loan through Valley Bank. “Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with the service,” she says. “I felt like [staff] kept me informed the entire time and the process was very simple. I think the time that it took me to complete the application and to receive my funding was just a matter of weeks.”

All in all, Valley Bank processed about $36 million of PPP loans for area businesses. This represented about 38% of the community bank’s total loan portfolio. “We took the risk,” Blood says. “It is a process and it worked pretty doggone well.”

“We know these clients and we trust them. We’re lending our own capital to do this in hopes we get paid back, so we have to trust our clients … whereas the larger banks don’t have that.”
—James R. York, Valley Bank of Nevada

Relationships are key

Ask the staff at Valley Bank how a team of six lenders was able to process loans for 154 customers—including 50 new clients—using a manual system in a short time frame, and they’ll tell you it was a matter of attitude and dedication.

“We were able to approach it that way because we have a relationship with our clients,” York says. “We know these clients and we trust them. We’re lending our own capital to do this in hopes we get paid back, so we have to trust our clients in the event they don’t use the money right or they don’t qualify for forgiveness … whereas the larger banks don’t have that.”

Blood says they saw the situation as a chance to expand their customer base. “If we could help people that didn’t even bank with us, then we’d have an opportunity to extend that relationship,” he adds. “So, this was a business development opportunity along with … taking care of our customers. It was a door that opened, and we decided to take it.”

So far, Valley Bank has expanded relationships with 30 of the 50 new clients. For that and other reasons, it’s choosing to stay positive.

“We’re going to solve this together, just like we did through the [Great Recession],” York says. “For customers that did stick it out, we’ll say, ‘we are willing to work with you if you can make half the normal loan payment or make interest payments.’ That’s the kind of attitude we need in our business community, community banks and government today. It’s nice to have all three working together in partnership this go-around.”


Rebecca Lubecki is associate editor of Independent Banker.

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