Southeastern banks are stepping up efforts to help Louisiana communities that have been pummeled by historic levels of rain.
At MidSouth Bancorp in Lafayette, La., more than 15 branches were affected by the floods. The $1.9 billion-asset company set up a hotline for customers to call.
"A fair amount" of people have called using the hotline, though a number of them seemed to be "still in shock," said Rusty Cloutier, MidSouth’s president and chief executive. MidSouth, meanwhile, has tied to serve as a financial counselor to those who have called, offering temporary solutions to those hit hard by the heavy rains.
MidSouth, for instance, is offering loans with "good interest rates" while also waiving the first payment for 90 days, Cloutier said. "Nobody knows what their long-term needs are yet," he added.
Regions Financial in Birmingham, Ala., has been letting customers defer loan payments. The $126 billion-asset company is also offering credit lines to help with flood recovery, along with new-business term loans with special discounts.
Regions, which donated $25,000 to the Red Cross and is also taking people's donations for the nonprofit at its branches, made its pledges even as it struggled to get up and running in flood-ravaged areas. At first the company had to close five branches: two because of the flood and the rest because of other types of damage.
The company has also had to pull staff from other branches to pitch in because some associates couldn't get to their offices, said Danny Montelaro, South Louisiana area president for Regions.
Hancock Holding in Gulfport, Miss., which bought Whitney Bank in New Orleans several years ago, committed $60,000 to relief efforts. The $23 billion-asset company has also pledged to defer payments and offer special disaster assistance loans and low rates.
Hancock is working with its regulators to make sure it handles the deferments properly, said Robert Schneckenberger, Whitney’s regional president for greater Baton Rouge.
"You got to be careful … because flood insurance is a whole different game than it was 10 years ago," he added. "As one of the major banks in this area, we're going to do everything we can to make sure this community comes back better than ever."
Two Whitney branches remain closed, though Hancock hoped to reopen at least one of the locations within a week. One of the offices was submerged under 9 feet of water, Schneckenberger said.
Banks are known to join in outreach efforts during times of crisis, including after the mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., earlier this summer.
Banks with major operations in Louisiana also played a critical role helping people when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast nearly 11 years ago. While Katrina brought more wind, the community also had more notice up the approaching storm. The recent floods, in contrast, just arrived.
"It's every bit as devastating as Katrina, without the wind," Montelaro said. "When you put this natural disaster into perspective to Katrina," this one is "every bit as impressive."