Citizens' CEO

Jill Castilla

EDMOND, Okla. — When banker Jill Castilla reached out to American billionaire, entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban, she got an answer. Castilla, CEO of Citizens Bank worked with Cuban to start a local program to loan money to individuals expecting government stimulus checks, giving them instant help.

Their conversation ended up helping the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is called Citizens CARES and is named after the federal government’s CARES Act that was developed to help with small businesses.

On March 26 Cuban issued a tweet, “Anyone know a very agile FDIC, SBA Preferred Lender Bank that I can work with to get cash advances into people’s hands ASAP, backed by their $1,200 government payment? The 3 week wait is too long. Let’s help people now.”

Cuban was wanting a banking partner to help him with stimulus check money for communities. Castilla responded to Cuban’s email address, introducing herself and the bank’s effort to help the community. They shared ideas in a telephone conversation. Cuban pitched a line of credit that customers could use until their stimulus checks arrived.

“We discussed that almost like a Shark Tank style,” Castilla said. “I was making a pitch — he was tearing that pitch apart — he had an alternate pitch. And I gave him feedback on that.

“And after that back and forth he said, ‘Why don’t we both go back to the drawing table and come back and have another discussion.’”

Cuban offered to partner in an overdraft program, and Castilla and Cuban agreed on the basic framework. The result was promoted on the Citizens Bank website under the COVID Relief selection. There were options to defer payments and to apply for an overdraft program that would allow customers to overdraw their accounts up to $900 until their stimulus checks are deposited in their accounts.

Castilla and Cuban agreed to direct the money to the people who needed the money the most. It was important for them not to disrupt a family’s livelihood or essential needs at home.

“For the month of April we haven’t charged any of our overdraft fees, and there’s no fees associated with this program either in this time frame,” Castilla explained.

Cuban was interested in using the Citizens Bank model to share with other banks. Success was further evident when more than 400 banking institutions contacted Citizens Bank to learn more about the program.

As a banker Castilla is delighted to offer economic solutions in the community she calls home.

“I feel proud that we’re living up to the legacy of Citizens. This bank has been here for 119 years and lived through many bangs and busts with Edmond and the Oklahoma City metro.

“It makes me feel really proud that this team that we have — 55 team members in our one location bank — that they understand how the community leans on us through times of trial, and it’s our responsibility to step up.”

Citizens wants to do the right thing for the community and its customers, Castilla said.

Coburn is a police, government and general assignment reporter for The Edmond Sun. Send an email to James at jcoburn@edmondsun.com or call 405-341-2121.

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