A four-day exhibition at Farmers & Merchants Bank’s main branch in Downtown Long Beach this week celebrates the business-saving work done by its staff during the pandemic.
Arranged in the lobby of the historic building are a stack of takeout containers, representing meals eaten with colleagues at work rather than family at home; a stack of paperwork, a stand-in for thousands of applications processed; and aprons on racks, symbolizing the jobs saved through loans processes by the bank.
“Folks coming in early, staying late,” that’s how Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer Phil Bond described the day-to-day of pandemic operations at the bank. “For me, this really drives through the scale of what was done.”
The exhibits will be on display at 302 Pine Ave. from Tuesday, May 4 through Friday, May 7.
Out of all banks servicing the Long Beach region, Farmers & Merchants processed the highest volume of applications to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, an essential resource for businesses during the pandemic, processing 4,198 loans totaling $713 million and supporting 83,267 jobs.
“Behind each of those sheets of paper was an applicant, someone looking for access to the funds to help them through,” Bond said. To help out each individual applicant, the bank had to pull staff from other departments and train them to process loan applications, he added. “We grabbed people from all corners of the bank.”
Looking forward, applying for loan forgiveness through the federal program will be the next step for the bank and its employees. So far, 77% of borrowers whose applications were processed through Farmers & Merchants have applied for forgiveness, according to the bank. Forgiveness is contingent on businesses meeting certain criteria, such as retaining employees throughout the loan period.
While not an easy time for the bank, Bond said the service its staff could provide to local businesses during the pandemic has been a valuable reminder of the important role they play in the community.
“It just really helped to reinforce some of the strongest values and parts of our culture that are so tied to our community and to one another,” he said.
After Friday, the exhibits will be moved to the bank’s Orange County headquarters at 4695 MacArthur Court in Newport Beach, where they will be on display from May 11-14.