By: Matt Gubicza, SVP and Team Leader, Commercial Banking, Univest Bank and Trust Co.
During challenging times, it’s especially important to reflect on the lessons learned to help prepare for the future. 2020 was a year like no other and as we look back at how we navigated the unexpected, what comes to light is how we were able to support our customers in new ways. This ability to adapt to the needs of our customers highlighted what matters most to our team – trusted relationships. Relationships were the foundation on which the bank was built in 1876 and our commitment was, is, and always will be building connections in the communities we serve. One of the best things about Univest is that we are local which gives our customers access to local decision makers who live, work and play in the same communities they serve. This allows us to build sincere relationships with business owners – who are truly the heart of the community.
Supporting businesses in need
During the height of the pandemic, we were able to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program. More than 175 employees from across the company worked tirelessly to secure funding for 93% of our applicants. Thanks to the team’s hard work and dedication, we successfully originated 2,550 loans totaling approximately $510 million. This funded an estimated 46,700 jobs in our local communities.
While these loans were a much-needed lifeline, the businesses hit hardest by the pandemic continue to feel it today. In many cases, those businesses – mainly in the hospitality, travel, small retail, and experiential retail industries – are still seeing revenue down 50-80%. We’ve been able to support the customers who have been severely impacted by deferring principal and interest payments, assisting with securing funding through the PPP and EIDL programs and providing business advice based on our experience.
Helping businesses grow
Amid all of this, we’ve continued to lend and serve customers’ needs. After the initial shock and impact of the pandemic, many businesses were able to pivot and succeed in the work-from-home economy. These businesses have been able to maintain staff as well as strong cash flow. For those companies, 2020 has been a time of investment. They’ve been afforded the opportunity to make strategic investments and/or push their intended 2020 growth strategy despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. We have also seen businesses using their resources and connections to assist with PPE development and other necessary materials to operate on the front lines of the pandemic. In many cases, Univest has provided creative financial solutions to make those investments happen, helping to boost our economy and protect our front lines at the same time.
For the commercial bank at Univest, our approach has been and continues to be focused on helping our clients, whatever that takes. During good times, businesses may not think much about their bank, but in times of crisis, it quickly becomes clear that they need a reliable partner to make it to the other side. The pandemic created unprecedented challenges, but our team
built customized solutions and uncovered opportunities for customers to keep their businesses moving forward. While the pandemic continues into 2021, we remain dedicated to maintaining great relationships and building new ones as we help our customers achieve success.
Univest Bank and Trust Co. is Member FDIC, Equal Opportunity and SBA Preferred Lender.
By: Tim Chubb, Chief Investment Officer at Girard, a Univest Wealth Division
Many of our clients have been voicing concerns about the upcoming election. The common question is if they should pull out of the stock market until after the election. Does it make sense to sacrifice potential gains in favor of protecting current assets? To answer this, there two things worth addressing – the first is the election and the second is market timing.
With regard to the election, prediction markets are suggesting a Democratic sweep to control the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. It is important to keep in mind that the market is forward-looking and I believe investors are generally aware of how Democrats have performed in polling recently, therefore, election results may not come as a surprise to investors and cause nearly as much volatility as some are concerned.
That being said, the Senate is very much up for grabs. If the Republicans are able to retain control, it could lead to more ‘status quo’ despite who ends up in the White House for the next four years. The Republicans currently have a 53-47 Senate majority but have 23 seats up for re-election in November while Democrats have just 12 seats up for re-election. The latest polls and prediction markets indicate the Democrats are likely to capture six seats and lose one seat for a net gain of five seats which is enough to gain majority control of the Senate for the first time since 2014. However, as is the case of the presidential election, the winners of close Senate races may not be known until well after Election Day when all the mail-in votes have been counted – a unique characteristic for the election this year due to COVID-19. Meaning, it could be some time before the market reacts, if at all, since the results may not be clearly known immediately.
Although Presidents can implement executive orders, legislation requires Congressional approval hence the importance of unified control under a single party of both legislative and executive branches. This makes the Senate the race to watch.
So far, the performance of stocks that are sensitive to a potential increase in corporate tax rates has not reflected the changing probabilities of the election outcome while healthcare stocks have underperformed of late. This leads us to believe that the market is still digesting this potential outcome and is more worried about the economic rebound than the election.
The major consequence of a Democratic sweep is the proposed tax policy which has garnered the most focus from investors thus far. While higher corporate taxes will reduce corporate earnings, there could be other policy measures that offset some of these losses such as a softer stance on trade policy, greater government spending, and other policy measures. With the economy on shaky footing, it is possible the Democrats will wait a few years before attempting to push through policy that would hit corporate earnings.
With regard to market timing, our mantra has always been to stay invested, stay disciplined, and take advantage of volatility in the market. Market timing, while tempting, involves getting two nearly impossible decisions right – when to sell and when to get back in.
As a long-term investor, trying to time market tops and bottoms is a fool’s errand and the evidence is overwhelming that most investors diminish their long-term returns trying to do so. Investors become more likely to chase the market up and down, getting whipsawed, buying high and selling low.
Through the end of last year, $100,000 invested in the S&P 500 from December 31, 2004 until December 31, 2019 has led to 9% per year in performance, growing that sum to $364,180. If an investor missed the best ten days, the return was only 4.13% per year – or $183,850 at the end of last year. In time, this problem has significant consequences as the next 50% move higher in the S&P 500 lengthens the gap between the person missing those ten best days and being fully invested by ~$271,000. We would recommend rebalancing into this weakness, hoping to take advantage of a volatile market environment and possibly catch some of the best prices in the market cycle.
The bottom line is the U.S. stock market has been resilient throughout its history and stocks routinely recover from short-term crisis, just as they have as recently as the March lows. By trying to predict the best time to buy and sell you may miss out on the market’s biggest gains, making the decision more costly than taking the speed bump in the first place. On Election Day, we’ll all wake up and trends like consumers buying more groceries online, companies spending more on cloud infrastructure, and folks going to the hardware store will still be relevant, making for exciting times to be an investor in our country.
We look forward to sharing more in the coming months as details become clearer on policy. While we’ll be watching the presidential and congressional elections, the economic recovery is a more important priority and focus for the market right now.
Given the ongoing changes due to the global pandemic and the significant investment implications, working with a financial advisor can help you navigate the market and create an investment strategy that matches your time horizon and risk tolerance. To have a conversation about your financial goals and how we can help, please reach out to a Girard advisor.
This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. The information in this article, and any opinions expressed therein, do not constitute a recommendation or an offer to buy or sell any security or financial instrument. Viewers should consult with their financial and/or legal professionals before making any financial decisions.
Any index or indexes referenced are not managed and cannot be invested in directly. Past performance is no indication or guarantee of future results.
By Kevin Davis, VP & Senior Benefits Consultant at Univest Insurance
As we face the uncertainty of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our economy, public safety and our individual health, we are all looking for assurances from our leaders and employers. One of the biggest factors that contribute to the success of any business is the ability to perform together as a team. With the recent uncertainty and increasing competition, it has become extremely important to encourage creativity and collaboration among your employees in order to improve productivity while also promoting both physical health and healthy employee relationships.
At Univest, we highly value our culture and truly believe it drives performance. We also realize that culture isn’t something that just happens – it needs to be defined and cultivated. We firmly believe that an engaged workforce who follows a common set of fundamental behaviors creates success. The Univest Way consists of 18 fundamentals that describe the daily principles and practices that make our five core values come to life and truly serves as the foundation of our culture.
One of my favorite of our fundamentals is “Collaborate.” Which the Univest Way defines as, “Break down walls, eliminate silos, and work together, for the good of Univest, your customers, and each other. Be there for each other and be willing to step into another role or help a co-worker when that’s what’s required for success. Help each other to succeed. ‘It’s not my job’ is not part of the Univest Way.” The phrase “we are all in this together” has represented our collaboration as a society as we’ve faced a pandemic and now as we are trying to come back together.
One of my favorite songs is “Unity” by Shinedown. The lyrics have resonated with me relative to collaboration as the band sings, “Shine a light in the dark/let me see where you are/’cause I’m not gonna leave you behind.” Life and business are all about partnerships – working together we achieve more than we can on our own.
Encouraging teams to work together towards a common goal by sharing their ideas and skills often results in employees who are more effective and efficient in their work compared to people who work on projects on their own. Collaboration is especially important to cultivate when teams work virtually, as many have had to over the past few months. The sense of team spirit is felt most strongly when victories can be shared. Employees are more likely to continue working for a business longer when they have strong ties with the people they work with and feel that they’re a part of something important. As the saying goes, “two heads are better than one.” Through collaboration team members can balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
What is your company’s culture and engagement strategy? The employers who embrace the power of collaboration and have strategies in place to communicate their culture and promote employee engagement will be in the best position going forward.
An experienced employee benefits consulting firm like the team at Univest can identify which strategies are best for your company and create a roadmap to implementing them successfully. Not sure where to begin? An advisor at Univest Insurance can help you determine what is best. Please feel free to call us at 610.904.6029. We are all in this together and can help you determine the best approach.
Insurance products offered through Univest Insurance, Inc. are obligations of the issuing insurance companies, not obligations or deposits of or guaranteed by any bank and are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency of the United States.
By Chris Carter, VP and Area Sales Manager at Univest Home Loans
Only a few months ago, the United States economy was chugging along at a respectable pace with low interest rates, a record-high stock market and 3% unemployment. These impressive stats supported a seemingly financially sound and stable 2020, but the arrival of COVID-19 quickly dispelled this Goldilocks story before the end of the first quarter. With businesses forced to close amid stay-at-home orders, unemployment skyrocketed which, quite obviously, impacted the normally robust spring real estate market.
With unemployment at its highest level in decades, lenders have been forced to verify and redocument income and employment status for clients up until virtually the last minute before securing funding. Borrowers with lower credit scores may find themselves unable to secure the same financing as before the onset of the pandemic. Some secondary financing, such as home equity loans and lines of credit have been eliminated altogether at several lending institutions. Government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with mortgage insurance companies and other agencies (HUD, VA, etc.) have generally tightened up underwriting guidelines and credit overlays.
Simultaneously, interest rates have plummeted to incredible lows which has prompted record refinancing. For many, this phenomenon has clogged pipelines, delayed desired closing dates and, in some cases, forced lenders to indefinitely postpone transactions, disallow interest rate locks and/or make their pricing so unattractive as to discourage would-be customers until the volume subsides.
Remarkably, Univest Home Loans has maintained its 1-2 day underwriting turn-times and continued its sterling 98% customer satisfaction rating all while setting and breaking record loan production. Not a single purchase closing has been missed or postponed. Appraisal waivers and exterior inspections have allowed us to process and fund hundreds of transactions per month. And, we have only slightly adjusted our consumer lending model for potential home equity borrowers.
As a bank with our own money to lend, Univest can self-fund and rely less on wholesale arrangements than our competitors whose warehouse lines have been cut and some face margin calls. Our 100% local team has transitioned to working remotely seamlessly. Unlike other lenders, Univest Home Loans, can originate portfolio transactions as an option for alternative and specialized financing. Our expansive product line, which includes construction-to-permanent financing, lot loans, swing loans, and first-time homebuyer grants (to name a few), remains available. During these uncertain times, Univest’s experience serving local communities over the last 144 years has proven to be an asset.
Interest rates are at historic lows, despite the uncertainty, and now could be a good time to buy or refinance. However, headlines on coronavirus and its impact change daily which has created an
ever-fluid situation. Contact a Univest Home Loan consultant at 877-723-5571 or firstname.lastname@example.org for the most current information and to learn more about what we can do for you in these challenging times. If you find yourself financially burdened with your existing mortgage, contact your servicer immediately for options. Be safe and stay healthy!
Univest Bank and Trust Co. is an Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #415882
John Hayes, New Tripoli Bank
Chair, The Chamber Board of Governors
It’s official, the Veterans & Military Council, the formation of which has been facilitated by Member Relations & Operations EVP Alison Pickel, is an official business council of The Chamber!
Bylaws have been approved and officers elected. Thanks to Ron Jerdon, Jerdon Construction Services, for stepping up as the Council’s chair, Andrew Lawler, West Side Hammer Electric, as vice chair and Marilyn Kelly-Cavotta, Moravian College, as secretary. Volunteers truly make this Chamber both special and work well.
The Chamber and the VMC are committed to support, honor and empower the men and women who have served or are serving our country in the United States military, and to build a strong network of the region’s veterans and active military in business, and to promote the contributions and competitive advantage that military members bring to any business.
Objectives of the council are to help veterans and those who serve develop and grow professionally, to create network building opportunities for veterans and military personnel, and to promote the attributes and the advantages of hiring veterans and military service personnel.
Military veterans are extremely capable and eager to excel as employees, but there are many companies who don’t even give them a chance. This both is a missed opportunity for those businesses, needs to change as it’s the right thing to do.
When hiring, consider that Veterans value teamwork, are unbelievably resourceful, are the best at taking constructive criticism, and take tremendous pride in their work.
This Spring, the council will present the first of their Veteran Smart Series events; “My Battlefield, Your Office” with Marine combat veteran Justin Constantine on May 20th (see the display ad on page ___) and we’ll follow-up in June with “Now Hiring!” a leadership panel discussion on finding, hiring, training and retaining a veteran workforce.
Both of these events will provide vital information and insight for HR professionals and recruiters and offer SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification credits provided by Equinox Benefits Consulting.
When the going gets tough, Pennsylvanians band together. At PPL Electric Utilities, we’re taking several steps to look out for our customers during these challenging times.
We’re working day and night to continue safely and reliably delivering electricity to our customers.
We won’t cut service to any customers for unpaid bills until further notice and we have waived all late payment fees, effective March 16.
We also have several programs available to help customers who are having a hard time paying their bills:
OnTrack offers a lower, fixed monthly bill and debt forgiveness for customers who make 150 percent of the poverty level or less.
Operation HELP is funded by our company, employees and customers, and can assist customers who make 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less. Grants help pay customer heating bills, including oil or gas heat. PPL Foundation recently donated an extra $500,000 to Operation HELP. To apply for either Operation HELP or OnTrack visit www.pplelectric.com/billhelp or call 1-800-342-5775.
CARES can help customers who are experiencing a temporary hardship. Learn more or apply by calling 1-800-358-6623.
No matter what your situation is, if you’re having trouble paying your bill contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help. We’re all in this together. Stay safe and healthy.
Lehigh Valley Health Network
Whitehall Area Chamber Chair
As spring is nearing, we have many great events that you are going to want to participate in here in the Whitehall Area!
First, mark your calendar for Thursday, March 12th as we are featuring our annual State of the Region Luncheon featuring the four municipalities that are under our Chamber: Whitehall Town- ship, Catasauqua, North Catasauqua & Coplay Boroughs. Come out and hear updates from our municipal leaders and learn about upcoming projects! This event has been sponsored by Fellowship Community, America’s Notary, Home Instead Senior Care and Pocono Brewery Company – thank you to all who are making this very important event possible!
Thursday, March 24th is a big day for Whitehall! Starting in the morning, we will be partnering with the Northampton Area Chamber for a Fed-Ex Tour and Luncheon from 11:30 am – 1 pm! Come out and tour the largest FedEx facility in the United States and how one click on the computer turns into some- thing delivered right to your front step!
Also on March 24th the Whitehall Area Chamber and Catasauqua Main Streets will be welcoming one of our newest members at a ribbon cutting! We will be cutting the ribbon at Jupiter Crush (on Race Street, Catasauqua) at 5:45 PM – come out to celebrate Jupiter Crush’s 3-year anniversary and to check out the unique vintage goods, artwork and studio.
As the warmer weather arrives, spring out to our Whitehall Area Restaurant Week from April 19th to the 25th! This is a fantastic week that showcases some of our finest eateries from across Whitehall Township, Coplay, North Catasauqua and Catasauqua. Want to get involved? This is one of our biggest bang-for-your-buck events for both restaurants and sponsors! Sign up now for maximum promotion and exposure.
Lastly, we want to thank all who came out to our joint event with Catasauqua Main Streets at the Suburban North Branch of the Greater Valley YMCA in Catasauqua! Between the delicious hors d’oeuvres and free Zumba class, we all left a little happier and healthier. Your participation made this event simply fantastic!
As always, we want to produce events that add value to your membership! Please reach out if you want to get involved or have an idea for a partnership, event or would like to sponsor.
Western Lehigh Chamber Chair
The Western Lehigh Chamber is very thankful for its Board members and the time and effort they volunteer to serving our mission. Among other things, I will be trying to highlight in these monthly articles our Board members and their businesses because I think it’s important to understand how varied our backgrounds and businesses are and what we have to offer our membership. This article will call out some important happenings and news publications in Upper Macungie Township and South Whitehall Township. Thanks to Kathy Rader, Upper Macungie Township Supervisor, and Christina Tori Morgan, South Whitehall Township Commissioner, our Board keeps abreast of important happenings in those Townships.
Upper Macungie Township (with Upper Mac NEWS) and South Whitehall Township (with Explore South Whitehall) both publish official community news magazines that are informative and may be helpful to you even if you don’t reside in either of the Townships.
The most recent publication of Upper Mac NEWS highlighted, among other things, the problems currently facing volunteer fire companies not just in UMT but across Pennsylvania. One of the ways that the Township is trying to address those problems is by hosting a Junior Emergency Services Academy, which is conducted annually as a free program by the UMT Bureau of Fire in concert with UMT’s three volunteer fire companies, the UMT Police Department and Cetronia Ambulance Corps. The Academy provides children with hands-on lifesaving skills in multiple first response disciplines and early experience for possible future careers in firefighting, law enforcement and EMS. I encourage anyone with kids between the ages of 12 to 16 to check out this important summer program. Enrollment for the 2020 Academy starts in May.
If you’ve driven down Walbert Avenue recently, you are aware that the South Whitehall Township campus renovation project is well under way. The Township is updating and modernizing the exist- ing township building and overall cam- pus with a new public meeting room, additional conference rooms, public restrooms and increased technology. Green design alternatives such as spray irrigation and use of recycled building materials are also included in the plan. A new resident yard waste drop-off site will also be built so if you’re a resident of South Whitehall, remember that during 2020, the yard waste drop-off site will be moved to Wehr Mill Road. As a result of the renovation, South Whitehall Township will be temporarily moving offices to Suite 410 in the Roma Building (1605 North Cedar Crest Blvd). The Parkland Library will also be undergoing a renovation in 2020, but will continue operating out of the existing library until further notice. You can check out renderings of the soon to be new township building at https:// southwhitehall.com/administration/ campus-renovation-project/.
Contact the Township offices if you’re interested in getting copies of the publications. Hope to see you all at our next event on March 18 at Parkland Manor Senior Living to discuss Community Policing!
Penn State Lehigh Valley
Southern Lehigh Chamber Chair
With spring right around the corner, The Southern Lehigh Chamber is planning several exciting events to get you out and about!
The Southern Lehigh Chamber is excited to announce our Restaurant Week is back for the second year! If you are in the mood for some great food and drink, join us at a variety of local eateries, bakeries, breweries and restaurants from April 26 through May 2. Thank you to our Bronze Sponsors QNB Bank and Lehigh County Humane Society! More sponsorship opportunities are still available! For more information about this event, please contact Ashley Lorah at AshleyL@LehighValleyChamber.org.
Sunshine, tunes and good times! Upper Saucon Township and Southern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce are presenting the Music in the Park Summer Concert Series again this year. We have really enhanced this four month event series by moving the concerts to Sunday’s from 6-8 p.m. and let us tell you, we have a great line up!, Grab you smartphone and mark your calendar so you don’t miss out on these events. All concerts will be held at the Community Park, 3231 Preston Lane, Center Valley on the following dates: May 31, June 21, July 19 and August 23. We will have food and dessert options available at each concert too!
Lastly, make sure to ‘Like’ our Facebook page to stay up-to-date on member deals and events happening in our communities!
We look forward to seeing you through- out the year!
Hello again, Time marches on and so do the seasons here in the pristine Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Winter will soon be in the rearview and spring will start to show its vibrant green colors across our region. The rebirth we experience each spring got us thinking about the current rebirth happening across the business sector and even the Poconos tourism industry.
The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau works with a Take One Productions to produce television commercial spots we run in major markets as well as our backyard. Along with my talented co-host Ashley, Pocono Mountains Magazine features fine dining, exciting experiences and truly wonderful businesses that make our region a top-tier destination for more than 30 million guests per year.
Decades ago, the Poconos marketed itself in similar ways. The video may not have been high definition, but it does go to show how seasons change over time along with people’s tastes and preferences. In this new, invigorating season of growth our region is experiencing, we should be reminded that change is the true constant and we’re fortunate to be in a broader community of partners who work together to make it better than we found it.
Someday, someone will come across the current-day footage and feel nostalgic for this season in the Pocono Mountains, one which I’m sure will put us all on an even better footing for future changes to come