“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” Charles Dickens wrote this introduction to A Tale of Two Cities describing life in 1859, but the words could easily describe 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic rocked the world as we know it, and its effect on our region cannot be overstated. But the way our team at Chelsea Groton Bank responded was nothing short of heroic.
In the beginning, to help slow the spread of the virus, there were government mandated shutdowns of local businesses, stay at home orders and mandated social distancing.
These restrictions made it difficult if not impossible for people to conduct their daily business in person. Thanks to the significant investments we have made at Chelsea Groton in technology over the last five years, our customers were able to conduct all of their financial transactions remotely or through our drive through windows, never missing a beat.
Our local businesses faced unprecedented challenges and Chelsea Groton Bank responded by fully embracing the Federal Government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Our round-the-clock, all-hands-on-deck efforts resulted in being able to help almost 600 businesses receive these loans, saving over 8,000 jobs; more than any single lender in our area was able to do for the local business community.
The business shutdowns also affected hundreds of our mortgage customers in the form of job furloughs and layoffs. We responded by offering 3 month loan payment deferrals to those who needed some temporary relief. We also waived overdraft fees and early withdrawal penalties for anyone in need of access to cash.
In spite of the disruptions to everyday life, 2020 turned out to be a record year for first mortgages at Chelsea Groton. We provided financing for 908 people to buy a home, 155 of those were first time homeowners.
Not being able to be together didn’t mean we were going to stop educating our community. Instead, we pivoted to offer all educational programming in an online environment, connecting with over 1,200 individuals during 166 classes.
The Chelsea Groton Foundation Board met early in the pandemic and agreed that if ever there was a time for us to go big, it was during this prolonged event. We doubled our normal annual giving, providing more than $1 million in relief to the region to help struggling individuals and organizations get through the turbulent times.
All of this was made possible because of investments we’ve made in remote technology. We built systems that allow our employees to work from home. We installed video banking ATMs and deployed a secure video banking mobile app. Our wealth management team helped clients navigate the financial turmoil through video calls, and our online and mobile channels that provide 24/7 access never skipped a beat. We set daily, weekly and monthly records for call center volume and all of these remote access technologies. Our customers were able to go about their daily financial lives in a safe, secure way. Helping people achieve their goals is our mission, and it was accomplished!
The technology was critical to enabling all of this, but the true heroes of 2020 are the team members that made it happen. Kitchen counters and dining room tables became a call center. Loans were processed in bedrooms and on porches. Our team members took care of their families and their customers. The challenges were many, but in every case, we rose to the occasion. There were very early mornings and many long nights. But the team at Chelsea Groton, the Bank that has endured wars, hurricanes, pandemics and more for over 166 years, passed the test once again, and came out stronger than ever. That is something that we can all be proud of.