- Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is readying staff for the next round of small business funding set to resume on Monday, according to a memo reviewed by Business Insider.
- The firm provided talking points to employees around how to engage with clients.
- Even if federal funds run dry, the firm will keep processing applications “in anticipation of additional funding becoming available, unless we receive different guidance from the government.”
- The memo sent out on Friday afternoon highlights how the bank, the first major lender to begin executing on the Paycheck Protection Program earlier this month, is prepping for a new flood of applications.
- Visit BI Prime for more stories.
As small businesses brace for another sprint to apply for federal relief during the coronavirus pandemic, Bank of America, the second-largest US bank, is preparing staff for the next round set to resume on Monday.
The firm’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management unit is providing staff with approved talking points around engaging with clients and a reference list of frequently asked questions, according to a memo reviewed by Business Insider.
Many Merrill staffers were recently shifted from their normal responsibilities into roles helping small business customers of all sizes.
The firm expects that if the federal funds for small businesses in distress run dry, as the initial $349 billion set aside for aid was exhausted in just two weeks earlier this month, it will continue processing applications.
“If current funding is no longer available, we expect we will continue to process applications on behalf of our clients in anticipation of additional funding becoming available, unless we receive different guidance from the government,” the memo, signed by Merrill chief operating officer Kirstin Hill, said.
“It is widely recognized that it will likely not be enough to meet the extreme need and demand, and it remains to be seen if more funding will be provided by Congress,” Hill said. “We hope so, and in the meantime, remain focused on helping our clients process their applications as soon as possible.”
The memo sent out on Friday afternoon offers a window into how the bank is preparing for a new rush of small business loan applications at a historic moment of coordination between big banks and the federal government in offering a cushion to small businesses. A company spokesperson confirmed the contents of the memo.
The Small Business Administration is set to start accepting new applications again on Monday. President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a new $484 billion relief bill, which includes $310 billion in new funds set aside for the PPP.
“It is critical our clients engage with us quickly as each step of the process moves forward, and we are reaching out to them in a variety of ways to make clear what they need to do,” Hill wrote in the memo. “We are not sending general information broadly to clients.”
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America was the first major lender to begin executing on the Paycheck Protection Program when the application portals first opened on April 3.
Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said earlier this week at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting, held remotely, that it’s received 390,000 applications for more than $50 billion in SBA loans.
“We are in a war against COVID-19,” Moynihan said, adding the firm has processed and funded “thousands of applications worth billions of dollars, and those have gone out to our customers,” according to a transcript on the financial research platform Sentieo.
In the memo’s talking points for engaging with clients around PPP, intended “for verbal use only with clients,” it includes a reminder that Bank of America has continued processing loan applications “in anticipation of the SBA beginning to accept loan applications again.”
Within the frequently asked questions described in the memo, the firm reminds staff that clients who have already submitted applications to do not have to reapply for funds now that SBA has secured them.
Another point answered a sample question concerning what order Bank of America is submitting loans to the SBA for approval: “When loan applications are complete, including all required documents and review, they enter the queue for submission to the SBA.”