Lending to keep small business alive
Aimeee Glerum and Oswego Federal Credit Union adapt to serve the community.
Aimee Glerum gets goosebumps when she thinks about the impact Oswego (N.Y.) County Federal Credit Union made on small businesses last year.
When the coronavirus pandemic caused many businesses to struggle, Glerum, the vice president of lending at the $124 million asset credit union, didn’t know exactly how to act. Oswego County Federal hadn’t done Small Business Administration (SBA) loans before, but it became clear that there were was a need.
“We love not only our members but our community as a whole,” Glerum says. “So last year when everything got shut down, a lot of the big community banks and credit unions in our area were doing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. At first, we were going to let them handle it because we had a lot on our plate, but then we realized our members needed it. They weren't getting the help they needed. Our small businesses were hurting.”
Once Glerum started getting calls from people in need, she began working with Oswego County Federal CEO Bill Carhart to get involved. Glerum learned as much as she could about the SBA and PPP. Then she worked with small business owners trying to get through the pandemic.
The first round of PPP loans went quickly, with Oswego County Federal processing 30 applications for a total of about $404,000. During the second round of PPP loans, the credit union did 102 loans. All but 14 of those 102 loans were already forgiven by mid-November.
Providing these loans also allowed Glerum serve people who would have had a difficult time receiving help from larger financial institutions. She heard many touching stories, including a truck driver who wasn’t able to pay his insurance and a business owner who expressed how grateful she was.
“She was putting her own money into the business to help it survive,” Glerum says, noting that Oswego County Federal’s smallest loan was around $500. “She was eternally grateful for how easy it was for her to work with us and get the money so she didn't go under. A lot of people reached out and said, ‘Thank you so much. I couldn't have done this without you.’ To get that good feedback, especially when it was so important during the pandemic, makes it even more worthwhile that we jumped into it and did it.”
Glerum also helped business owners who weren’t in the credit union's field of membership by explaining the process and putting them in touch with other lenders.
“I reached out to try and find a place for them,” she says. “There’s something to say about being there for your members—you build a bond, you build trust, and they rely on you just as much as you rely on them. So, keep your arms open and keep doing what you can do for your members or your small businesses.”
It’s a personal touch Glerum has exemplified throughout her 18 years at Oswego County Federal, where she started as a part-time filer and worked her way up to vice president of lending.
“I've been able to be able to touch members' hearts and interact with them,” Glerum says, adding that the pandemic has been the most impactful, unique time of her career. “Anytime you help them with their financial future or stability, you are proud. Most of the time when I meet with people, I try to end the loan conversation with a hug, whether I could help them or not. I'm proud to be a credit union employee. I'm proud to help people every single day.”