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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 19, 2020 2 weeks ago

COVID-19 CEO update: Rita Lowman, Pilot Bank, Tampa

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Pilot Bank president is optimistic about the future but expects some bumps in the road.

Working situation (working from home, office or both):

Over the past few weeks, Pilot Bank has opened its drive-thrus only, with the exception of the south Tampa office, which has no drive thru. This office has been opened from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Clients have been able to make appointments if they need to come into a facility and much has been completed through online banking. Our operations teams (loan, deposit, compliance, credit analyst and loan officers) have worked remotely. This has been successful. We are beginning to bring operational associates back after reconfiguring office space. However, we are being flexible with this scenario.

Biggest WFH or WFO challenge:

Communication is always a challenge. We have found weekly Zoom calls have been beneficial. Our teams have also participated in training sessions on successful ways to work remotely.

We have found our teams have met the challenges and the market leaders have been in contact through notes, emails and phone calls with many of our clients to ensure we are meeting their needs.

Most important business lesson you've learned in the shutdown: 

We have always had a dedicated team and strong associates. During this time, we have been active with the Paycheck Protection Program and our associates have been working 14-hour days, seven days a week. This started April 3 and continued for four weeks. We realized as a bank you never “shut down”; you become creative in your work schedule and meeting clients’ needs.

We ensured our associates had the tools needed to work remotely and that daily communication was happening. If we each know what our contribution to the team results in for the overall bank, we have a sense of accomplishment.

How far out into the future are you looking for the bank?

The bank always keeps a one-year and three-year strategic plan. Those plans are evolving and fluid.

Has your bank done PPP loans? (If so, how many loans for how much money?)

Pilot bank is pleased that we have handled over 740 PPP loans for clients and new clients with the dollar volume being in excess of $115 million.

How will a prolonged economic downturn affect your bank? 

The bank is well positioned and we are optimistic about the future. We are also realistic in knowing that we will have a few bumps in the road. However, we are a relationship bank and know our clients. The bank keeps in close contact with our clients, understanding their business. We do know the hospitality industry has been impacted. With our national, state and community’s leadership, we feel hope for the nation. 

The stimulus package and PPP loans should assist in making a positive impact on economic recovery.

What steps can regulators take to free up banks to do more lending?

As a member of the American Bankers Association Government Relations Council and past chair of the Florida Bankers Association, I have been a part of several meetings with various regulators and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and am pleased that the regulators and legislative leaders have been proactive in our nation. The Federal Reserve listened to the calls from ABA, FBA and others making several adjustments to the Main Street Lending Program. Our bank had also reached out asking the loan amount to be lowered and we are pleased to see the banking industry was heard, with the lowering of the minimum loan size for certain loans to $250,000. 

How do you maintain your spirit/morale during these tumultuous times?

The past few weeks have created change in lives. Whether the change is losing a son, as I did Feb. 26, or change from COVID-19 or working remotely, we need to look within ourselves and find our resilience. I have maintained my love for life and our industry by continuing to talk with friends and associates, and building new skills through educational workshops. I also enjoy quotes, of which my book, From the Farm to the Boardroom, has many. 

I have also spoken at meetings and workshops through Zoom and other features, which is uplifting. One of my favorites recently was when I shared the stage with my oldest son, Gary. Gary is an attorney and works for the U.S. State Department in Brazil. We shared our thoughts on working remotely, diversity, motivating our teams and making a difference in the workplace.

Books, articles, TV shows, podcasts and/or audiobooks you’ve focused on:

I read the daily industry and community periodicals. I have read several books that friends of mine have written. My favorite business book is Never Eat Alone; however, I Dare to Lead is one of my new favorites. One of my friends sent it to me and the author, Brene Brown, is on point that leadership is not about titles; it is about people who recognize the potential in others. It is about building a culture and transforming ideas into actions.

Exercise or stress relief have you’ve turned to during the crisis: 

My husband and I walk or ride the golf cart in the evenings through the neighborhood. We have also cooked much more at home, which has been enjoyable.

Last trip out of the house: 

I have been going into my office since banking is needed by our community. 

I did enjoy a trip to our farm in Georgia. It was great to walk the lake, feed the cows and see new calves. It holds wonderful memories and we are making new memories. 

What are you most looking forward to post-lockdown/pandemic?

Our bank enjoys community initiatives and in August we will be having our executive forum at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa with astronaut Nicole Stott. We are also looking forward to bringing our associates together in the weeks to come to say thank you! Our team is the best and they have been focused and dedicated as we have assisted hundreds of clients and new clients with PPP loans. I always say to be the “bank of choice” you must be the “employer of choice."

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