BMO Harris Bank signs the Chicago Solidarity Pledge, defers $1BN in loans

BMO Harris Bank has signed Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot’s Chicago Solidarity Pledge, an initiative designed to bring together local lenders, landlords and other parties to address the unprecedented housing challenge that Chicagoans face as a result of COVID-19.

The Chicago-based subsidiary of BMO Financial Group announced its commitment to Chicago homeowners following previous relief actions for thousands of its financially distressed consumers.

To date, BMO said, it has fulfilled hardship requests for more than 20,000 customers, granting deferrals for $1 billion in loans to families and individuals, including mortgages. BMO also secured SBA approval for $4.4 billion in total funding for more than 10,000 borrowers during the first round of SBA PPP funding. 

In signing the pledge, BMO affirmed its pledge to offer: Mortgage payment deferrals; Waivers for mortgage-related late fees; Suspension of foreclosures; Neutral reporting to credit agencies for borrowers taking advantage of COVID-19-related relief.

BMO’s previous relief to consumers and small businesses, include payment deferrals on credit cards, home equity, auto, personal and small business loans, fee waivers for checking and savings accounts and removal of penalties associated with early CD withdrawal.

Customers are encouraged to inquire about the most recent BMO relief programs on the bank’s COVID-19 webpage, and to request assistance online using BMO’s personal financial relief form.

“The Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge represents our city’s shared commitment to our residents and building owners alike, whose homes and livelihoods have come under threat as a result of this crisis,” said Mayor Lightfoot in a release. “I am extremely proud that renters, landlords, homeowners, and lenders have all come to the table to work in partnership for our city and develop a solution to our shared problem. Chicago’s bold, data-driven response to the COVID-19 virus has already yielded important gains.”

The BMO Harris bank has been part of the Chicago community for over 160 years, “and being part of the community means being part of the solution,” said David Casper, U.S. CEO, BMO Financial Group. “We’ll continue to play an active role as we support our clients during this unprecedented time.”

The bank and its CDN$880 billion asset parent company, BMO Financial Group, have a long history of supporting the communities they serve across North America. In 2019, BMO announced a plan to “Boldly Grow the Good in Business and Life” by doubling its commitments to a sustainable future, thriving economies and an inclusive society, according to the company website.

Discover Home Loans wins Celent Model Bank 2020 Award in Mortgage Lending

Discover Home Loans (DHL), a subsidiary of digital banking and payment services company, Discover Financial Services, is the Celent Model Bank 2020 award winner in the Mortgage Lending category.

DHL’s initiative shows that established financial institutions can build an innovative end-to-end digital mortgage origination platform “as well or better than fintech startup companies,” said Craig Focardi, Senior Analyst at Celent.

“This large, national, digital financial institution created a digital mortgage platform using inhouse and customized third party point-of-sale (POS), loan origination system (LOS), and eClosing solutions for originating home equity loans,” the global research and advisory firm explained in its award abstract.

Celent awards honor financial institutions across the globe “for excellence in using technology to enhance the customer experience,” or for innovating like a fintech. In 2019, instead of using available fintech options, DHL built its own digital customer engagement channel, “ripped out and replaced its mortgage loan origination system, and installed a leading edge eClosing system” fit for the post-COVID-19 era.

DHL won the award by building an efficient digital mortgage experience, said PK Parekh, senior vice president of Discover Home Loans. “Customers can quickly and easily apply online, get evaluated for credit and available equity and receive accurate and personalized loan options.”

DHL offers home equity loans and refinancing loans from $35,000 to $200,000 with low, fixed rates and zero origination fees. Over 80% of mortgage applications start online, over 90% of borrowers use the website between application and funding “to view disclosures, upload documents, and check their loan status,” Parkeh said.

Celent also recognized Discover’s eClosing capabilities, which allow “consumers in certain states” to electronically sign many closing documents prior to the physical closing.

Discover currently offers eClosing in certain states covering 50% of its customers and plans to make it available nationwide by the end of May.

The digital closings platform has allowed lending parties and customers to practice social distancing, helped reduce notary errors by 46%, and shrank turn time from closing to recording by 80%, according to DHL. It gained over 90% adoption among eligible consumers, who appreciate the “hassle free closing process, without fees.”

Eleven banks, or almost half, of the global Celent award winners in 24 Model Bank categories were American financial institutions.

Bank of America, USA, won the Operational Excellence award for myCTO, Operations and Transaction Monitoring Platform. BBVA USA, the Banking-as-a-Platform for BBVA Open Platform; Citi, USA, AI-Driven Customer Insights for Citi Opportunity Insights; Citizens Financial Group, USA, won the Commercial Banking Transformation award for Beyond Digital; Midwest BankCentre, USA, is the Community Bank Transformation winner, or Rising Bank, a Separately Branded Digital Bank.

Regions adds $575K to COVID-19 support initiatives in several states

The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit created to support community investments across Regions Bank footprint, announced a new $575,000 grant to support organizations that are helping small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Based in Birmingham, Ala.,and funded by its $133 billion-asset parent company, Regions Financial Corporation, the foundation will deliver grants of various amounts to organizations across the South, Midwest and Texas.

The foundation is allocating resources to support the nonprofits that offer vital assistance to the small-business community, said Marta Self, Executive Director of the Regions Foundation. “We will continue to identify more avenues for support.”

The new fund is a component of Regions’ COVID-19 response, she added as grants will go to various local organizations.

Florida Community Loan Fund, a 25-year old nonprofit certified Community Development Financial Institution and Community Development Entity through the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, and a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, will support affordable housing. Miami-based, Branches, a nonprofit focused on helping working families and their children break the cycle of generational poverty, will use grant funds to provide financial education and virtually coach micro businesses challenged by COVID-19.

Nashville based, Conexión Américas, the largest Latino-serving organization in Tennessee serves more than 9,000 individuals and their families each year. It is currently supporting people who are unemployed due to COVID-19 through technical assistance, peer connections, and support from business experts.

Invest Atlanta’s staff is working to connect entrepreneurs with resources to help keep their businesses viable and ready to resume services. The grant will help support outreach efforts. Beneficiaries also include the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham now delivering COVID-19 emergency philanthropy; The Small Business Relief Fund, Indy Chamber of Indianapolis, an online hub that helps companies navigate the crisis by providing short-term emergency funds ranging from $1,000 to $25,000.

The grants announced by the Regions Foundation add to other relief such as several grants to CDFIs announced on April 24. According to a release, “the foundation continues to identify organizations for financial support,” and pledges to offer additional grants in the coming weeks.

The Foundation also announced recently that it will match donations by Regions Bank associates to United Way organizations and Community Foundations responding to COVID-19 needs. The bank recently donated a series of advertisements to food banks to encourage donations during the crisis. Separately, the Bank continues to offer a series of options for customers, including mortgage customers who are suffering from the financial impact of COVID-19.

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