Most servicers are well positioned for workplace disruption, says KBRA

Looks like mortgage servicers have learned their lessons well. The market’s prior disruptions — whether from the terrorist attacks of September 11, the global financial crisis of 2008, the daily threat of cyber attacks or natural disasters — have motivated mortgage servicers to prepare for future disruptions, according to a Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) report.

Most servicers “are well positioned for potential COVID-19 workplace disruption,” analysts wrote. The authors of KBRA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): U.S. RMBS and Residential Real Estate Ramifications report sent questionnaires to 14 servicers active in the private label security market “including some of the largest nonbank sub-servicers, national banks, and servicers with a specialty focus on nonperforming and re-performing assets.

Data show cumulative measures to update and improve servicing operations and regulators’ requirements have resulted in well-defined business continuity and disaster recovery procedures “at virtually all customer-facing financial institutions, or entities that trade in consumer financial products.” 

Servicers enacted best practices in this area, analysts wrote, which reinforced various voluntary and regulatory actions through the years, including several bills thataffected mortgage loan seller/servicers.

Among others, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, targeted safeguarding sensitive data for regulated financial institutions; the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, enacted internal controls and reporting for public companies; ISO (International Standards Organization) developed standards for business continuity; the Government Sponsored Entities and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau placed operational requirements.

The responses to KBRA’s servicer inquiries show their readiness “to deal with the potential workplace disruptions” that COVID-19 may cause at their own locations in terms of systems, staff, and procedures. Servicers’ reinforced readiness covers these areas: All or most employees are able to work from home; Many larger organizations have multiple physical locations, where employees can set up alternative work sites; Remote access to servicing systems, and remote monitoring of employee productivity, actions and servicing levels by management. In addition, most servicers have existing business continuity, disaster recovery and cyber security plans in place, “which are tested on a regular basis,” according to KBRA.

Union Bank pledges $3M to communities, $200K staff support fund

Union Bank has joined the many banks pledging COVID-19 assistance. The Los Angeles-based bank pledged $3 million to local communities affected by COVID-19 and launched a $200,000 Employee Relief Fund alongside other staff aid.

Union Bank will allocate $3 million to assist community needs, in collaboration with nonprofit organizations, local government agencies and public-private humanitarian partners.

  • $1.4 million for small business operations in low-to-moderate income communities
  • $1 million go to existing small business grants
  • $500,000 for regional social safety net programs, such as food banks, health and human services for low-to-moderate populations
  • $100,000 earmarked for community-based organizations in Canada and Latin America.

Additionally, the Union Bank foundation will consider grants for small businesses that cannot cover operating costs, which it typically does not fund.

The bank launched an Employee Relief Fund with $200,000 in initial seed funding for employees who experience unforeseen financial hardship. The fund also allows staff to donate and pool resources to support one another.  

Bank branches will remain open five days 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Safety measures for branch employees include social distancing, no in-person client meetings, limiting the number of clients entering a branch at one time, enhanced cleaning, gloves and hand sanitizer supplies.

Employees will receive supplemental crisis relief pay of up to $1,000 “to assist with unplanned financial burdens associated with COVID-19 for March and April.” Although all branches now operate on reduced schedule, employees will receive their regular hours pay over the next two months. The bank also offers additional time off, to help ensure uninterrupted pay.

Mortgage or home-equity loan clients can defer loan payments for 90 days with no negative implications to their credit reports or additional fees. The bank will also suspend all foreclosures and evictions until after the crisis ends. Credit card holders also may request 90-day payment deferrals and seek waivers of late fees.

The $133.2 billion-asset bank operates nearly 350 branches in California, Oregon and Washington. 

TurfMutt Foundation offers free boredom-busting online education for kids

Millions of Americans are experiencing a whole new level of crazy. All across the country, sheltering-at-home adults are living an all-day-everyday reminder of just how fast children get bored.

While not a cure-all, a science class in the backyard may help bust the boredom buildup. The green space in our backyards and neighborhoods are more important now than ever, says The TurfMutt Foundation, which offers free stay at-home resources to keep children occupied and learning during the self-quarantine.

The newly created foundation launched recently by Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) to further the mission of TurfMutt, OPEI’s 10-year old environmental education and stewardship program. The TurfMutt curriculum offers science lessons that “inspire children to learn about the value of our green spaces and to care for them too.”

The program provides online activities and lesson plans, e-books and games specifically designed for students in grades K-8 with the help of Scholastic. Its stated goal is to teach children the benefits of being in nature, outdoor science lessons, and stewardship of green spaces. “All of which can be done at home and in the backyard.”

“The natural, proven benefits of green space give everyone – adults, kids and pets – a break from being cooped up inside,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the foundation. “People who spend more time outside with their families and pets are happier, healthier and smarter.”

Science has proven that spending time in our green spaces reduces stress, improves memory, boosts heart health, and offers a host of other benefits for our minds and bodies. The TurfMutt Foundation’s fact book of third-party resources and statistics is a great source of outdoors learning tips for families.

“We all need the stress relief that nature can provide right now,” Kiser said. “Let the natural, proven benefits of green space in your yard give you a break.”

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