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How KeyBank's tech overhaul got the 195-year-old firm processing 33,000 small business loans during the coronavirus pandemic — up from 550 per year

Amy Brady
  • KeyBank typically processes around 500 small business loans a year. During the coronavirus pandemic so far, it has processed 33,000 of the 38,000 applications received. 
  • The 195-year-old financial institution was able to handle such a rapid influx largelyy thanks to the digital investments it made over the past six years. 
  • Led by Chief Information Officer Amy Brady, the goal of the transformation effort was to make KeyBank operate "like it was born digital."
  • The company used a combination of in-house tools and those from vendors like Automation Anywhere, nCino, and Akamai to both get loans to small businesses faster and manage customer demand for stimulus checks. 
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In a regular year, KeyBank processes roughly 500 small business loans.
That number rose to 33,000 over just the past few weeks as companies rushed to take advantage of new federal assistance to help weather the coronavirus pandemic.
Overall, the bank received 38,000 applications. While some larger companies like Ashford Hospitality Trust were given loans intended for small businesses, more than 90% went to companies with revenues below $3 million, Cleveland-based KeyBank said in a statement.
Small business owners have flooded banks with requests for federal loans during the pandemic, as Business Insider and others reported, and KeyBank said it was able to handle as much volume as it did largely thanks to the tech investments that the 195-year-old regional bank has made over the past six years.
It's all part of a broader effort led by Chief Information Officer Amy Brady to make KeyBank operate "like it was born digital."
"That's culture. It's talent, it's technology, and it's working with my business partners and peers to make all that happen," she told Business Insider.

Combining in-house tools with vendors 

When the federal small business loan program was signed into law, KeyBank had to quickly prepare its operations to handle what was expected to be massive demand.
But while they had a two-week notice prior to the Paycheck Protection Program going live, the final requirements for financial institutions participating in the program didn't come out from the Small Business Administration (SBA) until the day before launch.
The company was only able to pivot so quickly because of its innovation efforts to date, according to Brady.
"Because of that modern technology stack we had in the front-end, we were able to engineer an online application and build a digital process all the way through to the entry to the SBA portal," she said.
KeyBank had many of the digital tools in place to quickly process applications, whereas the SBA was still operating on an antiquated platform that required users to enter most information manually.
To mitigate that, the company turned to automation and other tools to automatically input that data into the federal system and coordinate with business owners in the virtual world.
First, it built an in-house extract, transform, load (commonly referred to as ELT) platform that served as an information bridge of sorts between KeyBank's system and the SBA's.
The company also tapped SoftBank-backed Automation Anywhere to eliminate some of the manual tasks typically involved in the loan process.
KeyBank used tech firm nCino's platform to actually process the applications and online document signing tools from Nintex to facilitate remote signatures.
Among other systems, it also relied on software provider Akamai to build virtual "waiting rooms" to help manage traffic to its online and mobile banking applications after the first round of stimulus checks went out.
Large volumes of customers trying to access that information led to outages at other financial firms like PNC and Capital One.
"That demonstration will be the new expectation of what's expected from my technology organization," said Brady.

Putting an 'exclamation point' on the digital journey 

As consumer behavior shifts from human-based interactions to the virtual world, many of those improvements put to the test over the past two months will help KeyBank navigate the post-coronavirus environment.
The outbreak and subsequent social-distancing guidelines is turbocharging digital adoption trends that, before the pandemic, were progressing but not nearly at the speed that they are now.
More consumers are opting for contactless payments. And movie studios that were still accustomed to releasing new films in theaters are turning to the streaming services they once shunned for launches.
In the banking industry, KeyBank's changing interactions with its customers highlights a major pivot to online for the sector — one that is likely to continue even after the coronavirus crisis subsides.
Digital enrollments, for example, went up by 19 percent over the past five weeks. And last month, KeyBank processed the highest percentage of mobile check deposits ever in March.
"This experience just puts an exclamation point on our digital journey," said Brady.
SEE ALSO: Meet the startup trying to help Kroger and other brick-and-mortar retailers take on Amazon with an undercover AI tool that tracks consumer demand for new products
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