VOL. 127 | NO. 35 | Tuesday, February 21, 2012
There’s More to Lending Than Money
By Joseph DiNicolantonio
Across the globe and across the street, I’ve seen how the economic period we’ve faced has unsettled people’s nerves and at times, shaken their confidence. But if we choose to see this time as more of a “glass half full,” I can also see that we’ve learned some valuable lessons.
We’ve all been challenged to look at how we manage our finances and how we do business and embrace how things have changed. We’ve had to become more efficient, smarter and serve more effectively. As a bank, it’s made us realize that, if we want serve the community and be successful, it could no longer be business as it was in 2000. People’s needs have changed and so has our role. Today, it’s about lending a lot more than money.
Lending an Ear
The best way to find out what someone wants is simply to ask. Last year for example, we talked to a lot of people, including our customers, about how they wanted to manage their money. Not only did we learn they wanted balance and more control, but we also began to see how they were changing some of the ways they managed their money.
Some 30 percent of our customers were doing things in new ways – like cashing checks with a third-party, sending money via Western Union or using pre-paid debit cards. Others were relying on other services – mobile banking, ATMs or using person-to-person payment systems. Bottom line, they wanted more tools to manage their finances. And while many preferred to get these services at a bank, they were also looking for them elsewhere.
Today, you can do all those things at Regions, and the reaction of our customers using these services has been overwhelming positive. These new services exist today because of the voice of our customers and because how they live their lives has changed. And the only way to find that out in the future – something that we’ve made a commitment to do now – is to ask the question … and lend an ear for the answer.
Lending a hand
While we can learn a lot about opportunity and needs by listening to people, you learn a lot about character when people and the community need a helping hand.
Regions has participated with many other lenders in national mortgage assistance programs, under the umbrella of Making Home Affordable. Regions, individually, has had a program in place since late 2007 to help our own customers facing difficulties – our Customer Assistance Program. Some 42,000 customers are still in their homes today because of our program, whose roots (in the wake of catastrophic disasters along the Gulf) were recalled as our company provided assistance to storm-ravaged communities in 2011.
Most recently, our Regions Bank employees took financial education out of the bank and into the community with a week of courses for kids, adults and entrepreneurs during “Make Life Better Week.” Throughout the week, Regions associates visited various schools and community centers throughout the Western Tennessee region, hosting and participating in events covering a range of topics including basic financial literacy, becoming a homeowner and the financial aspects of small business.
Of course, banks are also still lending money. Rumors to the contrary are like saying grocery stores don’t sell groceries. Lending in the community is what community banks do.
Last year, Regions made some $60 billion in new and renewed loan commitments – consumer and business, combined. To consider how significant that is, if this activity was our company’s gross domestic product, Regions would rank as one of the 70th largest economies in the world. (larger than Ecuador, Bulgaria or Guatemala) Just to individual borrowers (mortgages, direct lending, etc.), we loaned the equivalent of $1 million an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In 2011, Regions made a significant financial impact through new and renewed loans in Memphis. Memphis Mortgage assisted 760 customers through purchases and refinances totaling $130 million. Small businesses were positively impacted through lending credits totaling over $140 million in new and renewed loans.
As we listen to our customers and the community, one thing is clear; even with the uncertainty, we have all learned much to become better at what we do. That type of perseverance should instill confidence, because there is much for us to be proud of. There are more reasons to be bold than to be wary.
It is time to embrace the strides we’ve made and seize new opportunities. And we stand ready to fulfill our role in helping propel our community forward, together, by lending all that is within our power … with confidence and with boldness in this new year of opportunity.
Joseph DiNicolantonio is executive vice president and area president for Regions Financial Corp.