As things stand, NILA members in New Mexico are in receipt of the Financial Institutions Division’s Public Health Emergency Order, dated April 6, 2020, and are moving rapidly to comply. They have begun closing their community-based branch offices to the public and moving to reduce in-person workforces “by 100 percent”. Companies are looking to equip staff to work from home, procuring new equipment and developing new guidelines and practices that will allow them to do so. As they do this, they are aware that it will not be possible to achieve the 100 percent figure and still service existing loans.
Installment lenders have made this clear to Governor Lujan Grisham. In the absence of a reclassification of non-bank lenders as “essential infrastructure”, NILA members and others are asking for reconsideration that would allow reduced teams to operate from offices closed to the public, with strict adherence to New Mexico and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mandates on social distancing.
NILA members and their allies are also asking that lenders be given time to establish an operating model that will allow branch office staff to work from home. Below branch manager level, very few staff members have the necessary technology at home that would allow them to service their New Mexico customers, particularly when one considers the privacy and security implications for loan servicing and the need for strict data protection. In rural markets staff members may not even have reliable internet access.
This affects many tens of thousands of New Mexicans, who rely on installment lenders to provide much-needed financial capability. They understand that traditional installment lenders, working from community-based branches and employing locally-recruited loan officers, make fully-underwritten loans and report loan performance to credit bureaus. They are as important as banks to those who use them, and should not be treated differently.
If hardship is not to be compounded in New Mexico, it is critical that Governor Lujan Grisham and her team work out how installment lenders can be part of the solution to the economic woes caused by the coronavirus response.