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Impacting the Community: Montecito Bank & Trust

With a mission “to make the communities we serve better places to live and work,” Montecito Bank & Trust made great strides in the year 2020 as the world adjusted to perhaps one of the most challenging times in modern history.

“This has certainly been a time for reflection,” states Janet Garufis, Chairman of the Board & CEO. “Regardless of our own personal set of circumstances, I have been inspired by how so many of us have been moved to help, in whatever way we are able.”

During this unprecedented time, Garufis remembers the words of the late Michael Towbes, founder of MB&T, who often stated, “everybody can do something.”

“One of the great rewards of leading this extraordinary team is the opportunity I have every day to witness and celebrate their ‘something’,” says Garufis. “Whether face-to-face in our branches or at home remotely, each of our associates has maneuvered through their own personal pandemic response and never missed a beat in delivering on our mission.”

While the year 2020 was filled with extraordinary challenges, dedicated associates and community programs furthered MB&T’s mission to make the communities they serve better places to live and work.

Here’s a glimpse of the milestones made in 2020:

COVID-19 Response

With the safety and health of its associates, clients and communities as a priority, MB&T  instituted temporary operational changes to ensure all essential services could be continuously provided within a safe operating environment.

Associates embraced a new way of working in 2020, including branch drive-throughs, walk-up windows, sanitizing stations, rigorous cleaning guidelines, reduced capacity and mandatory mask wearing in all branches and offices.

Investments in operational technology enabled more than 40% of associates to effectively and efficiently shift to remote work, while also facilitating virtual client meetings, community education classes and company celebrations.

New Ways to Connect

Whether blending compassion with creativity for new marketing campaigns or hosting virtual events and client meetings, MB&T found a way to establish meaningful community connections in a virtual space.

For instance, the bank ran a series of “edutainment” TV ads reminding people about online banking, encouraging connections with friends and family, offering tips for virtual entertainment and pursuing new hobbies, and encouraging social distancing.

Additionally, the bank’s premier travel club continued to bring events about history, architecture and other cultural wonders to more than 247 members during nine virtual events; and the bank’s Wealth Management team introduced a comprehensive bimonthly newsletter for clients about important economic shifts and investment considerations.

Business Support

As the first and only community bank to begin accepting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications on day one, MB&T associates demonstrated what they do best: taking care of our communities.

These associates across multiple departments, including the Executive Management team, dedicated more than 20,000 hours to providing the level of service that has become synonymous with the team. Processing 1,800 applications and securing $205 million in funds in Round 1, MB&T associates continue to assist businesses in need during the most recent Round 2 of PPP funding, reviewing more than 1,100 applications and providing nearly $98 million for Santa Barbara and Ventura County businesses thus far. From returning PPP inquiry phone calls and emails late into the night and on the weekends, to taking applications over the phone, MB&T demonstrated its commitment to securing as much funding as possible for clients and nonclients alike.

MB&T client Crystal Evans, owner of two businesses, Conejo Awards and Engraving Wizards in Simi Valley, expressed her gratitude for MB&T’s assistance.

“Montecito Bank & Trust supplied both of my companies with the two rounds of PPP,” says Evans, adding that the staff assisted with her application, and will also be assisting her with the forgiveness application. “The communication around the applications has been outstanding and the process was quick, and we received our funds in a time where they were needed to keep my staff employed.”

Montecito Bank & Trust’s ability to provide her companies with the PPP loan “has allowed me to keep my staff employed with their medical benefits and has allowed me to keep my companies’ doors open and able to service the community during these difficult times,” Evans further emphasizes. “Choosing Montecito Bank & Trust has been by far one of the best business decisions I have made.”

COVID-19 Relief Center

Located at the Hollister branch in Goleta, the MB&T COVID-19 Relief Center became ground zero for assisting clients’ financial needs during the pandemic. It was here that 10 associates from across the bank assembled at socially-distanced desks to be a light for communities in perhaps their greatest time of need.

“Some days it seemed like we had an insurmountable number of questions and applications to address,” recalls Cari Shore, Senior Vice President and Director of Community Banking. “But I found it remarkable to see my colleagues diligently working to be a resource for our community.”

Joining Forces with Women’s Economic Ventures

Through their microloan funds and self-employment training programs, Women’s Economic Ventures gives women business owners the resources and skills they need to succeed. At the start of COVID-19, WEV turned to MB&T to assist their clients with the Paycheck Protection Program. As a result, they connected approximately 45 of their clients to the bank to assist with the PPP process, estimated at a total of $750,000 in funding requests.

“At a time when clients had either bad experiences with other PPP lenders, or had simply heard about bad experiences from others, MB&T showed their commitment to supporting small local business in this region,” says Nicki Parra, associate director of Strategic Initiatives at WEV. 

Nonprofit Support

With the hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, health and human services community-based nonprofits that operate medical facilities, homeless shelters, emergency child care centers, food banks and many other essential services have become a critical resource to our communities.

Over the years, MB&T has built important relationships with its nonprofit partners and knows that timely and impactful funding for these nonprofits was critical so they could continue supporting the needs of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties during this time. Last April, the bank immediately donated $155,000 in urgent relief aid to health and human services organizations and ended the year with more than $560,000 in COVID-19-related donations to local nonprofits that so desperately depend on support as they to continue serving those in need.

As far as PPP funding for nonprofits is concerned, the bank stayed true to its commitment to charitable organizations by providing more than 24% of all nonprofit PPP loans—over double the amount of the #2 financial institution.

2020 Michael Towbes Community Impact Grant

Well known for their annual Community Dividends tradition which gifts $1 million to local nonprofits, MB&T added a new grant this year to honor the legacy of founder Michael Towbes, whose vision inspired all of MB&T’s philanthropic giving programs. In the same way that he made a significant and meaningful impact on our communities, this grant is intended to do the same by gifting $100,000 to one or more nonprofits that deliver critical and sustainable services to a large amount of the most vulnerable people in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

In light of what all communities have endured, the 2020 grant amount was significantly increased to $175,000 to provide critical support to five nonprofits, including the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, and Organic Soup Kitchen.

Financial Literacy

The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are an important reminder of why strong saving and spending habits are important to learn at any age. Through its award-winning Financial Literacy program, MB&T associates volunteer their time teaching financial lessons to students and adults across our communities.

When schools closed due to stay-at-home orders, the team adapted and created financial literacy lessons that were available as on-demand videos that teachers could share with their students, and also as live virtual classes that were deployed via Zoom.

Live and pre-recorded lessons were tailored to specific grade levels, providing students with interactive lessons about responsible saving and spending. MB&T volunteers also taught virtual bilingual courses to adults and college students about saving, budgeting and credit.

An eighth grader with the Head Start Savings Program expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn about the “do’s and don’ts of finances,” adding that “not many people have access to classes like these, and I am very grateful that I was able to attend and gain information for my future.”

For more information about Montecito Bank & Trust, visit Montecito.Bank or call 805. 963.7511.

  • Janet Garufis, Chairman of the Board & CEO