Hear from Amir Madjlessi, Santander's Executive Director, Head of Business Banking on resources to help combat business disruption amidst the coronavirus.

We had the opportunity to speak with Amir Madjlessi, Santander’s Executive Director, Head of Business Banking. We spoke about the current pandemic and the economic turmoil to get his perspective on the crisis and what support is available during these uncertain times.

Amir Madjlessi

Q. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First, how would you frame the current climate and the role banks play in supporting businesses during these uncertain times?

First, this feels unprecedented. Yes, we, as a nation and certainly as a global economy, have experienced economic declines before, but the sudden drop off caused by the coronavirus feels more drastic and severe than any recent recession events. I think we’re feeling a little scared or uncertain, and that’s okay.

From a bank perspective, we are doing all we can to provide support, advice, and liquidity to businesses and the community. We have to be helpful in giving guidance, and not just on the unexpected immediate future, but on their long term plans as well. Businesses worked hard to put annual plans and forecasts in place, but the current conditions will inevitably force change as we weather the storm, for however long it exists.

There has to be a new way of doing business: Remote interactions and virtual interactions, new and different revenue streams are going to emerge due to the financial impact we are feeling in real time.  It’s our job as a bank and more importantly, a partner, to provide tools, advice, and connection to the community to help businesses succeed where possible.

Q. How should customers expect their banks to help?

Banks have to be there when customers, both consumers and businesses, need them most.  This is most certainly one of those times. We’re working diligently on updating information and being responsive as new support (from federal and local governments) is provided. On a very human level, we all need to be thoughtful and aware of the sensitivity of these moments and recognize that we are all experiencing this stress. It is my hope that Santander is a source of strength to our customers and our communities as we get through this together.

Q. How should customers be proactive and engage with the bank for support?

This is important: Get in contact with the bank as soon as possible and talk about your options. Come prepared with all of your pertinent financials: taxes, financial statements, payroll, etc. Business owners should also have a documented plan on what they propose to do with the funds and a plan to meet the financial obligations during and after the economic downturn.

Santander is offering a number of programs to help restructure payments and facilitate lending where appropriate. I’d recommend consulting with your banker, CPA, and attorney to fully understand your options, create a plan, and then quickly act to take advantage of the programs available.

Q. What support is available outside of banks?

The good news is there is a lot of support available through both banks and the government. I will say to be careful and thoughtful when choosing the partner to help you through these times. A number of lenders can offer fast cash, but that often comes with unreasonable fees, payment terms, and higher interest rates. Again, consult your team and then decide whether that’s right for you and your business.

Banks and government entities like the SBA and CDFIs will provide more favorable loan terms, but may take longer to distribute the funds. Santander has pulled together resources to help you determine what is available for your business.

Q. How would you advise business owners to approach this time of disruption?

Consider your options and focus on what you can control. The challenging part is not making rash decisions because the economy is changing so quickly. Consult your trusted advisors: CPA, attorney, and your banker to help make those tough decisions. Consider where you can apply cost containment and re-forecasting against the current conditions and what will inevitably be the new normal.

Most importantly, get informed and stay educated. I cannot stress enough how quickly the economy and federal responses are changing. This is a good thing, but you’ll need to understand what options are available. A good rule of thumb is to consider immediate and long-term impacts to help make decisions. The end results of the current conditions are unknown, but it’s important to be aware of the facts, options for your business and what liquidity is available. You need to ask: “What will your business look like when we come out of this economic uncertainty?”

Q. What do you feel is the most important message to share with our customers and business community at this time?

We stand with you. We are in this together and we’ll get out of this together.

For more information on how Santander can help support you and your business during this time, please click here.

Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.

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