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Nutmeg Credit Union soaring with fed small business loans as big banks stumble

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With all the sturm und drang that has surrounded the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program – the disorganized rollout of the program, ambiguities over a borrower’s debt forgiveness, and of course the fact that it ran out of money on April 16 – it may come as a surprise that one Connecticut lender has been offering a streamlined process and, as of April 17, had already handled some $10 million to $15 million in loans.

“We have a solid process in place,” said Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union President and CEO John Holt in Bridgeport. “We’re doing everything as we always have to process every loan efficiently and quickly.”

With 10 branches around the state, Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union is obviously not playing in the same league as the big banks — something that actually works in its favor, Holt said.

“We don’t have the backlogs the big banks have had,” he said. “And a lot of them were often asking (applicants) to have had at least a couple of months’ relationship with them before they’d make the new loans.

“All we said,” Holt added, “is that we’re a community credit union.”

Focused on small businesses and individuals, Nutmeg will even process loans for those who do not have a formal relationship with it.

“We do not require anybody to have an account with us already,” Holt affirmed. “Of course, we highly encourage it. And we hope there might be some give-and-take in the future.

“Most credit unions do what every other bank does,” he continued. “A lot of people didn’t realize that (with the Paycheck Protection Program), unfortunately. But we tend to be more community-based. Credit unions like to say we’re the first responders to a financial need.”

One reason that the nonprofit Nutmeg was able to react so nimbly to the PPP rollout, in addition to already being an SBA-approved lender, was a thorough vetting of the 880-page CARES Act, which created the loan program, Holt said. “Then there was more clarity and some guidance as we were moving along,” he said.

The credit union’s 2018 acquisition of DaLand Solutions has also played a key role, he noted. The Aurora, Colorado-based company provides technology and related professional services to credit unions nationwide.

“We felt we had what we needed to be ready,” Holt said. “Everything was set so that when the portal was turned on, we were already in the queue.”

DaLand technology is also used to streamline activities at the DMV Express services at its Milford and North Haven branches, he noted.

As is the case with most financial lenders these days, Nutmeg offers drive-thru services at most of its locations. Customers looking to do business in-person can use an online scheduler, built by DaLand, to state time and place of preference, with an email or text confirmation sent in return.

“Of course, you can also do that by phone,” Holt said, “but it really is probably better to do it online.”

The credit union schedules in-person appointments at least 15 minutes apart from each other, and allows a maximum of three people at a time into a given branch. Nutmeg’s entire call center staff is working from home, Holt added.

Returning to the SBA, Holt said Nutmeg had processed over 100 loans, with another hundred still in process when the Paycheck Protection Program was closed down. “When the political powers-that-be work out a solution, those folks will be first in line,” he said.

The credit union is also awaiting a green light from the state Department of Banking to open another branch in Fairfield County this year, he said.

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