The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 rapidly transformed daily life as well as business operations across the globe. The sudden move to work-from-home upended office life as governments sought to mitigate the impact on both consumers and businesses.

The United States Congress took unprecedented steps to address the economic impact of the pandemic with the CARES act and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses.

To participate in the PPP, banks across the country had to implement end-to-end commercial lending apps in just two weeks—an unheard of amount of time.

Traditional software development approaches simply weren’t up to the task. Low-code was the only technology that had any hope of supporting such accelerated timeframes.

How T Bank delivered its PPP application

One financial institution that tackled this challenge was T Bank, a division of Tectonic Financial, Inc. When Congress passed the CARES Act, T Bank’s leadership knew they had to offer PPP loans—quickly. As Congress drafted the legislation, Haag Sherman, CEO of Tectonic Financial, directed David Clifford, Chief Strategy Officer, to build a custom portal where T Bank could process PPP applications.

T Bank had previously worked with Trailguide Digital, a professional services firm that had helped build applications for Tectonic using the Zoho Creator low-code platform.

T Bank and Trailguide worked together to scope out the first phase of the PPP, which enabled customers to apply for PPP loans and the bank to process and approve them.

Because part of the development work focused on the user interface, another part on internal workflow, and the rest on document processing, using a low-code tool that could handle all three challenges was the obvious—and, really—the only choice.

The application development team consisted of Clifford and Matt Gallegly, owner and consultant from Trailguide. Given the small team size and accelerated timeframe for delivering the PPP application, T Bank decided to use Zoho Creator.

Dealing with the rapid, ongoing change in requirements was essential to the success of the initiative. “The requirements for the PPP Portal were complex and evolving,” Clifford explained. “Having a platform like Creator allowed us to quickly build, revise, and iterate as we went in a very intuitive way to stay one step ahead of the needs of both customers and internal staff users.”

Zoho Creator was an essential part of this delivery process. “Creator enabled us to construct an end-to-end solution for PPP loan origination in two weeks,” Clifford continued. “And Zoho allowed us to move at a pace that the big banks couldn’t move at.”

Results and lessons learned

The big win for T Bank was simply the ability to offer PPP loans within two weeks of starting the project. “Ultimately, we processed 1,600 loans for over $100 million dollars,” Clifford said. “Given that our average borrower had about 10 employees, we estimate that the funding we provided via the portal supported 12,000 to 15,000 jobs. It was a big impact on small businesses.”

As a community bank, the fact that T Bank’s PPP offering supported so many jobs was even more important than the program’s profitability—although it was certainly profitable, given the low cost of building the application. “I can’t provide an exact ROI for the PPP portal—such an analysis would need to take into account other factors like the countless hours worked by T Bank’s SBA team, opportunity costs, etc.—but the project certainly had an extremely high return on investment.”

The benefits to T Bank continue to this day. “We’ve built a wide variety of successful applications on Zoho Creator over the past few years,” Clifford added. “With the extensive set of tools available in Zoho Creator and the broader Zoho One suite, we knew we could pull together an application that exceeded expectations in a very short amount of time.”

The Intellyx take

The PPP was a wake-up call for Tectonic, just as it was for thousands of other lenders across the country (not to mention similar programs in other countries). Whereas before the pandemic, new commercial lending products would take years to roll out, banks were now able to move from plan to full deployment in as little as two weeks.

Even for conservative institutions like banks, this level of success was an eye-opener. What other sorts of digital initiatives might a bank conduct, now that it knows it can be successful in a matter of weeks?

At the heart of this newly accelerated approach, of course, was the power of the Creator low-code platform. “The key is to get an MVP [minimum viable product] pushed out and then enhance, and add to that over time,” Clifford concluded. “And those rapid development cycles are accommodated by Creator very well.”

Perhaps the most important lesson from T Bank’s PPP experience is that a low-code platform like Zoho Creator is for more than simply building applications, it is also a platform for digital transformation.

Transformative business requirements like the PPP—as well as the broader work-from-home transition—pushed organizations of all sizes to rethink the timeframes for their transformation initiatives.

The result was a massive increase in interest in low-code as a way to support the rapidly changing digital requirements of any business.

Companies are realizing that applications are part of an extensive fabric of digital capabilities that any single tool cannot deliver. Zoho Creator stands alone among low-code tools as being able to support the full range of digital transformation needs.

Copyright © Intellyx LLC. Zoho is an Intellyx customer. None of the other organizations mentioned in this paper is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this paper.

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