Internal technology issues are leading to challenges for a major Michigan financial institution’s ability to process loans under the nascent Paycheck Protection Program.
Dallas-based Comerica Inc., the second-largest bank in Michigan by deposits, as of Thursday morning — nearly a week after the program began — was able only to manually process applications for the federally backed forgivable loans for small businesses struggling due to the outbreak of COVID-19, according to a bank spokeswoman.
Emails obtained by Crain’s from bankers to would-be borrowers show that the bank has been hampered by technology issues.
In one of the emails, a banker says that Comerica sought to build a platform that would accept customer’s loan applications and then would “flow seamlessly” into the E-Tran system used by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which administers the program and which formally launched nationwide last week with a bumpy start.
But Comerica’s technology team ran into challenges building such a system during the short time period in which the PPP was being developed in Congress.
“This week, we ran test applications to identify deficiencies in the system, in order to spare you the frustration of returned applications, or worse, applications that did not conform to the SBA guidance,” reads one of the emails obtained by Crain’s. “Our portal development team is making a monumental effort to provide you a streamlined application process that will in the end, we believe, spare you the frustration many have been experiencing this past week.”
In an emailed statement to Crain’s, Comerica Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications Wendy Bridges said the bank continues on with “the swift development of our automated solution,” and has so far approved $200 million in loans.
“We are in the final phase of testing our new technology, which we believe will allow us to handle all customer applications at scale,” wrote Bridges. “Until that solution is ready, which will be very soon, we will continue scaling up our manual system and serving our customers during this difficult time.”
The details on technology challenges outlined in the email stand in contrast to reports from some other longtime bank customers, leaving them frustrated about a lack of concrete information.
One longtime customer, who runs a metro Detroit manufacturing company but requested anonymity to speak freely about the application experience so far, said he feels like the bank has “abandoned” its customers.
Officials at the bank say they continue to work toward ensuring that customers can indeed submit PPP applications, according to the emails obtained by Crain’s. But even then, challenges are likely to arise.
“It is our current understanding from our IT vendor, and our internal staff, that we hope to have our portal functional soon. That said, upon roll out, there will need to…