Mon. Nov 28th, 2022

Ellen Sherberg, Bizwomen Contributor
Sep 30, 2022, 9:21am EDT
Handout
Anna Chung, Executive Vice President & Chief Small Business Administration (SBA) Lending Officer, HANMI Bank, Los Angeles

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a lifeline for many small businesses during the pandemic. That is, if the small business owners, could process the applications, which is where Anna Chung and her colleagues came in.
“Early in life I thought my calling was a career in chemistry. An illness derailed those plans and I took a temporary bank job, or so I thought. Numbers are my strong suit and a career in banking began to feel natural. I felt great pride and sense of accomplishment every time I helped a customer ― especially immigrant customers who were running small businesses ― establish their footing to achieve their version of the ‘American Dream.’
When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic, my immediate thoughts were of our employees and their families. Shortly thereafter, they shifted to our small business customers. The U.S. has nearly 32 million small businesses that employ approximately 61 million people. Over 5 million of those businesses are minority-owned. How would these businesses survive with much of the U.S. economy closed? Then, we received the good news that the government enacted the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). That’s when the hard work began.
As I reflect on those days, I recall with much emotion the sense of community and teamwork that swept through the entire Hanmi organization. We all worked long hours ― more than 12 hours each day to help customers. Every person from our branch and call center network was involved in answering client questions. Staff from non-lending areas, and many team members, who worked from home while caring for their children, were up at all hours of the night and early morning processing PPP applications. Our CEO held meetings with senior executives each week to continually streamline the processing procedures.
At the start of the program, submitting a PPP application was fully manual and shifting constantly because the rules kept changing. As I look back, I feel so proud of our team and how we all came together around one mission: to provide small business owners with an essential lifeline.
Through this challenging work, we were able not only to gain new customers, but also regain the business of former clients. We worked directly alongside them, answering questions and translating in real time until each application was completed.
I have many profound memories from those days. One poignant moment that is etched in my mind is when a doctor walked into our Koreatown office still dressed in scrubs. He looked exhausted and asked if we could help him complete a PPP application. Immediately, one of my colleagues took him to a conference room, offered him a chair, and began working on his application. In three months, we processed more than 15 times the number of applications we normally process in one year!
As I look back, there are three learnings that stand out from this experience. First, taking a few minutes of quiet time every day to reflect on the situation helped me stay centered and provided the energy needed for the long hours. This is a practice I continue today. Second, I realized that remote work was not the end of camaraderie but a great option for some of my colleagues. And, lastly, when you have a common mission and a talented team, you can accomplish amazing things.”
This is a time of virtual community and sharing. If you would like to contribute to this ongoing narrative, please send an e-mail to esherberg@bizjournals.com.
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