Coping with COVID
SC Biz News is speaking with small businesses and community leaders about the impact of the new coronavirus on business and industry, and how this is changing how they operate.
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Brooks Melton said one of the most challenging parts of dealing with the new coronavirus outbreak is the lack of clear information.
“It’s certainly an extraordinary time. ... There’s really no concrete sense of how bad it’s going to get,” said Melton, president and CEO of Beacon Community Bank.
Beacon’s top priority has been safety of customers and employees. The bank has told employees to work remotely if they are able, but banking is an essential business and Beacon remains open to clients who need access to financial services.
To increase safety, the bank has reduced its hours, restricted access to its lobby and begun promoting electronic banking.
“Day to day, we’re ... constantly monitoring and trying to think ahead in order to strategically be positioned to remain open throughout the pandemic,” Melton said. “And that all comes back to being an essential business and being in a position to serve our clients.”
Customers have been accepting of the changes Beacon has made, Melton said, but he added that it’s been slightly difficult for a bank that has built itself on relationships in the community.
“When you restrict access to the lobby, that dynamic changes,” Melton said. “But folks have been very accepting of those changes. We have some of our regular customers who usually come to us and get a cup of coffee and sit down and chat when they make their deposits. Instead they simply drop their deposits in our drop box and then leave.”
Melton said that because the coronavirus is affecting every business differently, it’s important for business owners to schedule one-on-one time with a banker to talk through the issues they’re having.
“Be very proactive in dealing with those (issues) and face those head-on,” he said. “And I think ... it’ll be a whole lot easier to deal with these things.”
Melton said the current situation is unlike previous economic downturns in that the banking industry was strong heading into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Heading into this, the banking industry really is well-positioned to help,” he said. “As for Beacon ... we just want people to know that we’re here to help the community, help our customers. Our customers that are impacted by this, we want them to know we will work with them and help them get through.”