First Northern Bank named 2020 Business of the Year

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First Northern Bank is Winters’ 2020 Business of the Year following the personalized care their staff gave during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy photo)

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First Northern Bank has been declared Winters’ 2020 business of the year. Acting as a fiscal shield, the big white building at 48 Main St. helped businesses weather through the pandemic storm.

Since the 1970’s, First Northern has handled the financial needs of the community and its businesses. When those financial needs were amplified by the pandemic, the bank stepped up to keep Winters’ businesses in business with the Paycheck Protection Program.

 “When COVID hit, it was a difficult time. Nobody knew what was going on and the government rolled out the Paycheck Protection Program. I really think it was like building an airplane in flight because we’d never done anything like that before,” said First Northern President and CEO Louise Walker. “People’s businesses were shut down and through (it) all, the bank stayed open to make sure businesses impacted were helped and be able to apply for PPP funds. So, our hats are off to the frontline in Winters and the employees that know their customers by first name.”

In 2020 alone, the bank handed out 136 loans and $17.7 million into the community. Its mission states they increase shareholder value by employing the best people who exceed customer expectations, and based off the exhaustive efforts of the Winters branch staff, it’s safe to say they succeeded in just that.

 “It was a bank-wide effort and we’re very proud of what we were able to do to help clients and customers at a time (when) there was so much uncertainty,” Walker lauded the Winters staff. “Patricia and Linda helped process applications. Karianne raised her hand when we needed volunteer employees coming to the operations center to process other things. It was great because she knew a lot of customers calling in.”

While many other banks opted for automation to process PPP applications, First Northern’s tactics were a little more traditional and ultimately more effective.

 “A lot of banks were trying to use an automated system for the first time and we decided to process applications manually. So, we did that for the first round of PPP, then automated the second round,” Walker said about how the ‘old fashioned way’ helped find new clients. “We’d have customers from other banks reaching out to us because their automated systems weren’t working and we were able to pick up quite a bit of business from just that.”

 “It was just a crazy time. We were working around the clock in a matter of days put together a team that stepped up and took control of the situation,” added Vice President and Corporate Secretary Devon Camara-Soucy. “We’d also get lunches and donuts and flowers saying, ‘thank you for making a difference in our lives.’”

Walker praised the Winters branch staff, thanking Linda Barbosa, Jack Vickrey, Patricia Franco, Karianne Padilla, Patty Ayala, Elizabeth Hernandez, Pam Aguilera, Tim Klehn and Jessica Kilkenny for their above-and-beyond efforts throughout the pandemic.

With selflessness such as this, in a time such as this, it’s no wonder First Northern Ban is the 2020 Business of the Year.

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