04/08/2022: Seneca Financial Corp. Reports Record Earnings For 2021
President’s Letter | Annual Report 2021
(full Annual Report available here)
This year proved to be a year of milestones as Seneca Savings had an outsized performance in 2021 due in part to its participation in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Seneca Savings made 195 PPP loans totaling $11.1 million in 2021. We limited our investment in PPP loans to our current customers, and to a lesser extent, non-customers in our local market area.
During the year ended December 31, 2021, the SBA forgave 326 PPP loans (including PPP loans made in 2020) totaling $19.3 million and we recognized fees of $917,000 into income on the forgiven PPP loans. As such, we intend to strategically use this influx of added resources to grow the organization. We will grow the organization by expanding digital services, digital marketing efforts, social media, financial literacy efforts, employee engagement, and by growing our commercial and retail lending sales teams.
We have expanded the suite of consumer lending products that we offer. We continue to perform our due diligence in obtaining partnerships where we can purchase quality consumer loans that fit our risk profile.
The commitment to financial literacy programs continues to expand with our addition of EverFi’s Adult Literacy program that we’ve branded as Seneca Savings University. Consumers, both banking customers and non-banking customers, have 24/7 online access to the learning portal on SenecaSavings.com. Recently expanding our reach into the Syracuse City school districts, our student financial literacy programs continue to impact hundreds of students across Central NY with online learning modules integrated into their school curriculum. The Seneca Savings partnership with EverFi makes all of this financial learning for our K-12 students possible.
As so many people around the world face incredible difficulties, and for those in the communities we serve who are impacted emotionally, economically or otherwise… We turn to our talented team, customers and partners and fortify our commitment to one another. When customers face uncertainty, we have the honor and great responsibility to reassure and fortify them. A large part of their well-being rests in their sense of home, their transportation, their business, their insurance, their bank accounts. We touch all of those, and act as guide, mentor, confidante, connector, and coach. We have the Team in place to do this and to help navigate that journey with them.
Technology | Customer Engagement & Services
The ability for our customers to more readily track and manage their credit score is now being offered through our web site. With Credit Sense customers can conveniently access and monitor their credit scores. Credit Sense also provides tips to improve the score or offer money-saving products and services unique to Seneca Savings. We launched an automated virtual financial ‘Coach Lea’ powered by GreenPath, a non-profit organization that has been helping people improve their financial health for 60 years. RoundUp is a program allowing our customers to round up their debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference to savings. Transfer Now is an account-to-account transfer service for use between a customer’s outside accounts and Seneca. Adding a digital wallet option for our consumers is timely and relevant including Apple, Samsung and Google Pay (for consumers ease of payment). Our website now features the ability to schedule an appointment either in person, video conference or by phone for those who prefer appointments. We also have added an ability to Live Chat with our customers from our website or online banking and soon we will be enhancing this chat function as we add in ‘Stella,’ our ChatBot who can answer quick FAQ questions 24 hours a day.
Seneca Savings Insurance Agency | Financial Quest
Seneca Savings Insurance
There’s an exciting new offering that all Seneca Savings customers now have the opportunity to take advantage of. Seneca Savings Insurance Agency, headquartered at our new offices at 925 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse offers personal and commercial insurance products. Enhancements to our SenecaSavings.com website and social media are beginning to incorporate this offering as we work to educate our employees, current customers and potential customers about the cost-efficient options available to them through Seneca Savings Insurance Agency.
Financial Quest, a wholly owned subsidiary of Seneca Savings, opened their new location at 925 State Fair Boulevard, Syracuse with our new financial broker-dealer, LPL Financial. LPL Financial (Nasdaq: LPLA) is a leader in the markets they serve, supporting more than 18,000 financial advisors, 800 institution-based investment programs and 450 independent RIA firms nationwide. They are steadfast in their commitment to the advisor-centered model and the belief that Americans deserve access to personalized guidance from a financial advisor. For more information about LPL Financial, visit LPL.com. New hires, one of which is in the process of going through the licensing process in 2022, along with a new more efficient and effective website, digital marketing including geo- fencing/mobile marketing, podcasting, news-focused radio programming and community-focused sports sponsorships, is expected to provide for revenue growth in 2022 and 2023.
2021 saw many challenges for many different businesses and families throughout the communities we serve. As a local bank, when the times get the toughest, that’s when we have the opportunity to shine the brightest. We accomplished many notable things in 2021, to include many technological advances. But perhaps the proudest moment of all, was seeing the collective story of the impact we had across our neighborhoods… working hand-in-hand with some of the finest charitable organizations and efforts in Central New York. With over 31 organizations and over 530 volunteer hours, the Seneca Savings Team devoted themselves to making a difference. One organization in particular that Seneca Savings has supported each year and will be doing so again in May 2022, is the CNY Diaper Bank’s Make A Mother’s Day Diaper Drive.
Talent Development & Employee Engagement
Employee engagement on all levels is key as we launched an internal Employee Newsletter “Your Story” as well as Incentive Programs for garnering Online Reviews (an important tool for customer acquisition and online reputation management), the ‘Trailblazer’ Employee of the Month program. In addition, 2021 saw us implement our new employee engagement software. It operates as a performance development tool. We made this investment to create personalized, authentic, and motivating experiences to strengthen the culture of the bank. As a next generation performance tool, including as a benefit to present to prospective talent, this investment is designed to assist in assessing and re-balancing talent resources and mapping talent to value – helping our employees get to next level as we guide their career path within Seneca Savings. Specifically, driving strategic workforce planning, providing regular feedback and recognition, pulse surveys taking employee experience to the next level and establishing and radiating the organizations’ purpose.
Marketing and storytelling efforts intensified exponentially in 2021, proving to put the bank’s brand awareness across the communities we serve, on a whole new level. Concerted effort has been devoted to the development of our new branding platforms, brand promise and purpose statement, customer testimonials and vital storytelling that resonates with our identified target markets. We’ve rolled out our all-important brand promise “For Life’s Journeys” – a culmination of input and insight from every member on the team through a series of focused employee workshops and review of true customers’ stories.
Word of mouth is the most effective means by which any community bank can share its best stories. This quarter we took great strides to implement an initiative to encourage online reviews – true Business-to-Business testimonial-based publication “JOURNEYS” saw its’ first issue come together in 2021 and launching in early 2022. Featuring several of our key commercial client stories, along with educational and advocational resources, our personalized and localized publication generated incredibly positive feedback from many members across the community, from businesses, partners, customers, employees alike. It’s being utilized as a prospecting B2B tool as well as a credibility and awareness piece throughout the community. JOURNEYS will be published quarterly with the next issue due out in Spring 2022.
Forging Ahead in 2022
Understanding that 2021 was enhanced by factors that are not anticipated for 2022, we forge ahead with optimism and enthusiasm for continuous growth and strategic investments of our resources. Several new initiatives are already being implemented including a brand new, fully optimized and modernized website to ensure customer ease, engagement and superior online experience. We will also be going to a single log-in enhanced online banking and mobile banking platform.
We have opened our media center that will be used for a myriad of content development, educational, and public relations purposes. We look to develop informational podcasts for employees and customers alike. We seek to perform client interviews, product education, as well as useful, employee onboarding videos at this location.
The intention is to increase our impact for those interested in improving their investment strategies for their future and for their children’s futures. Through expansion of offerings with Financial Quest and Seneca Savings Insurance, we can fully serve our retail and commercial customers on a whole new level.
We look forward to a great year in 2022 with all the previously discussed initiatives we are moving forward with. Customer and employee engagement is a priority for the organization as this is the lifeblood of the organization. We hope to prove that Seneca is truly here for our customers, employees, and community for all of Life’s Journeys. If we succeed in this goal, our success will also tie directly to the organizations’ success and ultimately, returns for our shareholders.
If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to read our PURPOSE STATEMENT online. It reaffirms why we are all here. Our Brand Promise “For Life’s Journeys” is truly showing us the best of ourselves and what we’re capable of, TOGETHER.
Sincerely, Joseph G. Vitale
President, CEO and Director