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Wintrust Bank, Armed Forces Bank Named Winners of Wolters Kluwer 2021 Community Impact Award

November 22, 2021, 07:00 AM
Filed Under: Industry News

Wolters Kluwer Compliance Solutions has named Illinois-based Wintrust Financial Corporation and Armed Forces Bank (AFB), headquartered in Leavenworth, Kansas, as winners of its 2021 Community Impact Award. The announcement was made at the company’s 25th annual CRA & Fair Lending Colloquium held Nov. 16-17. The award honors financial institutions for the breadth and innovative application of community development programs to benefit low- and moderate-income communities in which they do business.

Recognizing that many small businesses impacted by COVID were struggling to submit Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications, Wintrust Community Bank leaders in early 2021 authorized the creation of Wintrust PPP Resource Centers. Hosted in eight, geographically diverse community bank locations, the Centers provided onsite guidance, computers and other critical business equipment, supported by an informative resources webpage to help businesses navigate the complex PPP application process.

“Our bankers started hearing that there were some businesses that were struggling to submit because they didn’t have computers, didn’t have the right software, or they were having trouble with the portal,” recalls Ed Wehmer, Wintrust Founder and CEO. “Right away, our bankers started helping one-on-one, taking in paper applications and manually submitting them for borrowers so they could access this important CARES Act funding program. That one-on-one effort became more formalized as Wintrust’s Resource Centers came to life. In all, more than 1,000 businesses accessed our Centers, processing more than 600 applications.”

Half of all Resource Center applications came from majority minority population census tracts, and 40 percent were from low- to moderate-income census tracts, totaling $17 million in PPP loans. More than 30 knowledgeable Wintrust employees staffed the Centers and collectively volunteered over 275 hours over four months.

AFB launched its Access Loan Program in early 2021 to provide a closed-end, fixed payment installment loan to cover the variable expense needs common to many military families. New Access Loan clients receive an Access Checking Account, which provides early access to U.S military DFAS payment services, lower fees, and access to 30,000+ ATMs. Clients can add cash to their debit cards at any register at more than 4,000 Walmart locations. The Access Loan program is fully digital, featuring a highly automated, online application process available 24/7 that can often be completed in fewer than five minutes.

“Part of military life is being transferred from one duty station to another, at times with very limited notice for relocations or other expense-generating events. Military moves are never free, and military families are often far removed from family, so going home for visits or emergencies is perhaps more costly and, at times, it is difficult for military spouses to have consistency in employment due to military relocations,” says Jodi Vickery, Executive Vice President, Director of Military Consumer Lending, AFB. “AFB's Access Loan Program is providing the kinds of on-the-go interaction methods—mobile/online/chat/text—that many military clients highly prefer.”

Since its launch, 4,300 clients have benefited from the Access Loan Program in the military community globally, a strong response rate that validates the need for a responsible credit product for military families facing credit access challenges unique to a military lifestyle.

“The kind of positive influence that programs such as these are having is truly remarkable and an inspiration to the broader banking industry, demonstrating how banks can positively affect communities where they operate in very meaningful ways,” said Steve Meirink, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Wolters Kluwer Compliance Solutions. “We are honored to recognize the ingenuity of Wintrust Bank and Armed Forces Bank in creating these successful programs, and to acknowledge their ongoing care and commitment toward those they serve.”

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