How this small Cornelius community bank has played a big role in PPP process
Aquesta Bank played a critical role for many businesses hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It's a different role from Charlotte's financial giants. Aquesta is small — it reported about $526 million in total assets as of March 31. The Cornelius-based bank had to alter its operations in mere weeks, preparing for an economic onslaught while keeping a level head for its clients. All banks experienced a similar situation. What set Aquesta apart was its community-driven focus.
The U.S. Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program was another challenge. More than half of Aquesta's employees delved into PPP work. Employees from human resources to marketing stepped up to help. Aquesta was already a SBA lender. SBA loans made up about 20% of the bank's annual loan production, CEO Jim Engel said. That helped the process run more smoothly.
Engel said Aquesta was one of the country's biggest PPP lenders among its peers. He estimated the bank had about 1,100 approved loans, the majority of which have been funded. He equates that to roughly 14,000 families who received PPP aid.
"We were proactive in helping the small businesses in our community. We’re not trying to do this nationwide. We weren't some kind of internet-based PPP provider. We were talking to and working with the businesses in our community," Engel said.
The Charlotte Business Journal talked with Engel this week about Aquesta's PPP experience, how it tackled the program and what other challenges lie ahead. His answers are edited for length and clarity.