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Sherry Graziano is SVP at Truist Bank, she shares how lessons learned from 2008 can help banks assist homeowners now.

Sherry Graziano is SVP and Head of Mortgage Omni Experience at Truist Bank, an American bank holding company and a Salesforce customer. This article captures a conversation between Sherry and Geoff Green, Global Head of Mortgage at Salesforce, from a recent conversation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the entire world in the middle of an economic crisis. This is a difficult time for many homeowners in the United States. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, 22% of U.S. households don’t expect to be able to make their next monthly rent or mortgage payment. While the recent CDC eviction moratorium can help keep families in their homes for the time being, this housing insecurity may be an ongoing issue.

At a time like this, it’s crucial for banks and lending institutions to find ways to empower homeowners with support and understanding. Through mortgage relief and refinancing, banks can give clients some respite from an onslaught of bad news, and a chance to catch their breath. By leading the way with secure and customer-centric lending experiences, banks can strengthen communities and help clients build opportunities for a better tomorrow.

What we learned in 2008 is that we can only focus on what we can control.” Sherry Graziano | SVP, Head of Mortgage Omni Experience and Relationship Building at Truist

Through their mortgage relief program, Truist Financial is dedicated to helping homeowners by offering payment and foreclosure relief, waiving certain late fees and penalties, and developing long-term mortgage solutions. Truist’s program is informed by lessons learned from past financial crises, and is powered by technology that provides clients with digital access to support anytime, from anywhere.

Unforeseen circumstances beyond a homeowner’s control — like a global pandemic — shouldn’t leave them without a place to live. Here’s how banks can help clients face unexpected challenges and build a foundation for a stable and prosperous future.

1. Learn from the past to improve the future

For experienced mortgage lenders, the past six months have brought on a sense of déjà vu. The issues affecting homeowners today are very similar to many of the struggles homeowners faced during the 2008 financial crisis. Due to unexpected unemployment, many families in 2008 were forced to abandon their mortgages and give up their homes.

This is happening again, but now, more lenders are prepared to help their clients weather the storm. Based on what they learned in 2008, today’s financial services leaders can explore every possible option to keep families in their homes, despite temporary financial hardship.

I vividly remember in 2008 when a couple walked into my office with the keys to their home and said ‘We can’t stay here anymore.’ ” Sherry Grazian

In 2008, Graziano realized that many homeowners didn’t necessarily know about all of the options available to help them navigate new and unexpected financial struggles. She knew she needed to reach out to clients with resources that could help them make informed decisions.

As they navigate the financial impacts of today’s pandemic, homeowners are armed with more information and understanding than ever before. While no one could have anticipated what’s happening, more people have access to the tools — including mobile apps, help centers, and online FAQs — they need to secure their living situations and build a better financial future.

2. Help build a foundation for financial stability

In 2008, Graziano worked closely with many families who ended up with no choice but to leave their homes. Crushed by these families’ feelings of loss and defeat, she made a commitment to help clients avoid similar outcomes in the future.

Over the next few years, Graziano developed four key principles of home preservation to help clients navigate unforeseen financial challenges and keep their homes. These four principles are:

  1. Keep clients informed. Proactively give clients a clear, detailed, and jargon-free understanding of their financial situation.
  2. Educate all you can. Create resources to help clients navigate potential or impending financial instability — such as a blog, webinars, videos, help center, or frequently asked questions (FAQ) page about mortgage relief and refinancing options.
  3. Provide every option. Give your clients as much control as possible over their financial future by sharing all available options in a clear and simple way.
  4. Help clients get back on track. Help clients restore a sense of normalcy by discussing how relief or refinancing will affect their everyday lives, and create action plans with short- and long-term financial goals.

Any bank or lending institution can use these steps to inform their approach to helping clients during a crisis; in her work at Truist, Graziano has found them useful in empowering clients to navigate the financial impact of COVID-19.

3. Understand your clients and meet them where they are

As a result of the pandemic, clients’ preferred methods of interaction with banks have changed. Fewer clients are walking into physical bank branches, as virtual communication has become the new norm in our increasingly work-from-home world. Banks need to understand what their clients want, and make changes to deliver the service they deserve.

Chatbots are a way for clients to better understand their options. ” Sherry Grazian

In many ways, virtual communication is more convenient for bank clients. Thirty Seven percent of Truist clients engage with resources or request relief after standard business hours, because according to Graziano, they’re focused on securing their careers and taking care of their families from 9 to 5.

By being always-on and always available online, banks can be there for clients at the time clients really want to engage — instead of being something clients need to take time out of their busy days to attend to. With the right technology, it’s easy to provide clients with financial education, improve transparency, and deliver positive interactions.

With dynamic FAQs and chatbot technology, Truist is helping clients access the information they need, whenever they need it. Plus, with new interactive voice response (IVR) technology, they’re able to share wait times with callers and offer scheduled callback times. Innovative solutions like these deliver banking services that allow customers more freedom and flexibility to access their finances anytime and from anywhere.

4. Build stronger communities by doing the right thing

Banking and lending can no longer be about the bottom line alone. In the words of Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, that style of doing business “has led to profound inequality.” It’s time to focus, not just on profit, but on purpose.

I am so proud to work for an organization with mission-driven values. It’s time for us as lenders to take action.” Sherry Grazian

Many banks are now rethinking their lending practices, holding loans longer on balance sheets to focus on borrower relationships, and finding meaningful ways to give back to their communities. Truist is one of these changemaking banks.

Through the Truist Cares initiative, the company has made a $50 million commitment to supporting the efforts of non-profit partners focused on critical healthcare and community-based programs. Their partners include the CDC Foundation, John Hopkins Medicine, United Way of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and other organizations making meaningful contributions to society.

The banks and lending institutions that do the right thing today will be the leaders of tomorrow. By treating clients with respect, delivering clear financial literacy resources, and providing banking services when and where customers need, today’s mortgage lenders can help homeowners navigate any crisis.

To learn more about how Truist empowers homeowners in times of unprecedented change, watch the on-demand webinar: LendIt How to Accelerate Mortgage Relief and Refinance Volume for Borrowers.

Amelia Guertin is an Industries Product Marketer, leading Banking and Lending at Salesforce. She develops industry messaging, thought leadership and experiences that illustrate how banking providers and lenders can leverage Salesforce to accelerate digital transformation. Her passion is developing solutions that help solve pressing industry challenges as well as collaborating with financial services leaders on disruptive ideas. Prior to joining the Financial Services team at Salesforce, Amelia worked in a number of business lines at Scotiabank, one of the big five banks in Canada. She provides a unique perspective by incorporating her banking and creative arts experience to inspire customers and prospects. While her experience at Salesforce has brought her to live in New York and now San Francisco, Amelia is proud to have grown up in Canada speaking English and French.

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