Banks and credit unions in various stages of Ian’s recovery | Credit Union Journal

Five days after Hurricane Ian cut a destructive path through parts of Florida, banks and credit unions are in recovery mode, rushing to reopen branches and provide disaster relief to customers.

Several financial institutions said Monday that most of their offices that were in Ian’s path were back, although some remained closed due to damage or power outages. As they work to reopen these sites, the companies say they are diving head first into relief measures for their employees and customers who are reeling from the storm.

The storm, which made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s southwest coast as a Category 4 hurricane, cut through the heart of SouthState Corp’s footprint. in the state – from the Greater Tampa Bay area to Orlando in central Florida. As of Monday, all SouthState branches that were damaged or lost power — about 20 in all — were back up and running, according to Chris Nichols, capital markets director for the $46 billion asset firm.

Like its peers, SouthState, which is based in Winter Haven, Fla., is trying to assess the damage caused by Ian, Nichols said. To help establish short-term stability, the bank provides grants to employees and affected communities. He also speaks directly to customers and coordinates efforts with state and federal government agencies, local authorities and relief organizations.

“Our first priority is to make sure everyone is safe,” Nichols said in an interview. “Our next priority is to ensure that people have what they need to cope and that our customers have cash to meet their immediate needs. … At the moment we are still in the assessment stage. ”

The second major hurricane in less than two weeks, Ian left behind countless damages. The official death toll topped 80 and more than 527,000 customers were still without power Monday night, according to poweroutage.us. In some areas, roads and bridges have been washed away and several communities are facing water sanitation issues.

A number of major banks said they reopened most of their affected branches on Monday.

As of noon, 196 of the 234 JPMorgan Chase branches closed due to the hurricane had opened, leaving 38 still closed. The list of closed branches includes those on hard-hit Sanibel Island, whose causeway leading to mainland Florida has been wiped out, as well as those without power. The company “will continue to assess what it will take” to reopen the rest of the offices, a JPMorgan spokesperson said.

Most Truist Financial branches in Florida and South Carolina were also open Monday, a spokesperson said. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company has rolled out its disaster recovery mobile arm, which has on-site ATMs, to two locations in southwest Florida, the spokesperson said.

A destroyed home on San Carlos Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida on Sunday. Five days after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida, bringing with it deadly storm surge, catastrophic flooding and powerful winds, the death and destruction it wrought is beginning to become clearer. Photographer: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg

In anticipation of the storm, some banks and credit unions have removed a page from their pandemic response manuals, including Regions Financial in Birmingham, Alabama.

As it prepared for Ian, the $161 billion asset bank was quick to communicate with clients and roll out special offers such as fee waivers to try to ease financial burdens related to the storm, said Steve Nivet, a regional manager at the consumer bank whose territory includes all of Florida.

“Without a doubt, the processes, procedures and ways to connect with customers that we have used throughout the pandemic have helped,” Nivet said. “We were much faster in communication.”

Regions has 234 branches along the Florida peninsula. Of these, 126 have been identified as being in Ian’s path. On Monday, 18 remained closed, including eight awaiting restoration of power.

Five others suffered minor damage such as downed tree branches or damaged gutters, while five others suffered major damage such as major roof repairs or water intrusion, the bank said.

“I think we’re recovering pretty quickly considering all the damage,” Nivet said.

Fifth Third Bancorp, based in Cincinnati, which has a strong presence in Florida, opened 144 of the 155 branches it has in the affected areas. Officials hope the rest will open on Tuesday if power and network issues are resolved, Fifth Third spokeswoman Beth Oates said.

The bank is working to get all of its ATMs up and running “as soon as possible” and has deployed three ATM trailers in various areas, Oates said. He also launched a website showcasing its hardship assistance programs and other resources for affected customers, and dispatched a bus to help customers and employees seek assistance from federal and state sources, access the assistance program to the bank’s loan difficulties and to recover basic supplies.

Credit union leagues have also begun rolling out recovery programs for those in the midst of rebuilding. The Southeast Credit Union League convened its Southeast Disaster Coordinating Council and began working with organizations such as the Credit Union National Association and the National Credit Union Foundation to mobilize relief initiatives to people displaced by the storm.

“As you can imagine, here in the Southeast and especially in Florida, it’s something we always have to plan for every year,” said League General Manager Patrick La Pine. “It’s going to take a long time” to fully recover, he said.

In addition to the need-based scholarships offered through the group Southeast Credit Union Foundation, the League distributed an initial supply of 65 portable generators with fuel- and water-resistant covers after identifying credit union staff members who suffered power outages and other forms of damage. A second delivery is expected later this week.

With about 120 credit union branches still without power, the league is also compiling a list of available mobile branches and matching them with institutions that suffered property damage, La Pine said.

Fairwinds Credit Union in Orlando is using its technology investments to meet customer needs during a difficult time, said Bryan Meizinger, senior vice president of lending at the institution with $4.7 billion in assets.

Fairwinds “has invested significantly over the past few years,” he said.

“It was absolutely vital to our response to Hurricane Ian,” Meizinger said. “It gives us the flexibility to keep operating or to make sure our employees are as safe as possible.”

Meanwhile, the American Bankers Association announced on Monday that it is contributing $100,000 to relief efforts. The trade group is also accepting donations through its disaster relief program through Nov. 9 and will send the money to the Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund.

Leslie M. Gill