Guy Williams

President and CEO, Gulf Coast Bank & Trust

Championing small business and the New Orleans economy

As Guy Williams explained it, managing Paycheck Protection Loan applications for his customers was a high-stakes race to the finish line.

“The SBA set it up in an awkward way, where it was first come, first served,” said Williams. “As soon as you loaded loans into the portal, the money was being whittled away by the treasury, so we had to [get the applications processed] quickly to make sure all of our customers got done. There was a period of about three weeks where we worked 24 hours a day — which is more than a little unusual in the banking business. Parkway Bakery, one of our customers, has to go in at 3 a.m. to prepare the roast beef for the poor-boys, but we never thought we’d be up working at that hour.”

Ultimately, Gulf Coast completed 2,552 PPP loans totaling $276,439,000. The bank also approved $15,620,000 of the less-popular Federal Reserve Main Street loans. At the same time, the bank was strengthening online banking tools, improving health and safety protocols and counseling customers.

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“Everyone is dealing with uncertainty,” said Williams. “The New Orleans economy is really in a difficult situation because both the oil-based businesses and tourism-based businesses are hurting. As a banker, you need to be sympathetic to the problems, provide good advice and help in ways you can so we can all get through this.”

Williams, who co-founded Gulf Coast in 1990, is responsible for $2.2 billion in assets, 45 locations, 689 employees and more than 17,000 customers in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. In March, he became chairman of the board of Greater New Orleans Inc., where his colleagues say he’s done yeoman’s work during an unprecedented year.

“Guy is such an effective leader because he is morally principled, intellectually dexterous, and has a passion for the people of Greater New Orleans,” said GNO, Inc. CEO Michael Hecht.

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Looking ahead, Williams said the two big challenges facing the New Orleans economy are reviving the tourism industry and replacing the economic activity lost by the waning oil and gas industry. To address both, he said, city leaders need to think big.

“I challenged our board members and investors at GNO, Inc. to measure ourselves against the best,” he said. “For too many years we have been content in Louisiana to look over our shoulder, and as long as Mississippi was behind us, No. 49 was okay. That’s truly bizarre. We can do much better — and it’s really time for us to do it.”

He also stressed the importance of supporting local businesses, especially now.

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“Don’t shop at Amazon,” he said. “Jeff Bezos makes more money than all of us in Louisiana put together. I’m not a Bernie Bro but I think enough is enough. Shop and eat local because the job you save may be your own.”

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