We believe in creating positive, lasting change for individuals and communities. Our education initiatives, partnerships, and programs are helping to improve financial outcomes across a spectrum of demographics. We aspire to find the best solution to every customer’s unique financial situation and enable our customers and communities fulfill their financial goals.
Access, Affordability, and Community Development
Synovus has a long history of community development, and we continuously refine and invest in programs to be more intentional, transparent, and impactful. In 2019, we expanded our Community Development Department to include a local-market community development manager to oversee programs across our market segments and be accountable for progress locally. We have actionable goals for each of our 58 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) assessment areas and senior management reviews score cards on a quarterly basis. We engage in ongoing monitoring and training with our lenders and credit partners to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the types of affordable loans and programs we offer.
Our community development plan and strategy was developed this year to specifically outline objectives, oversight, types of partnerships, role and responsibilities, and performance outcomes. It is administered by the Community Development department under the bank’s Consumer Compliance Division responsible for community development efforts across the bank’s entire footprint. The plan aligns with and furthers the bank’s efforts under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Activities are reported to the Executive Risk Committee (ERC), Regulatory Compliance Risk Committee (RCRC), and the Risk Committee of the Board.
We engage our communities in multiple ways, with our primary focus areas outlined below:
Affordable housing for Low and Moderate Income (LMI) individuals (including multifamily rental housing)
Community Services (childcare, educational, health/social service, job training, credit/financial services) targeted to LMI individuals
Activities that promote economic development by financing small businesses or farms
Activities that revitalize or stabilize LMI geographies
Community outreach programming and activities associated with CD lending
Community Development Loans to finance
Multi-family affordable housing projects
Nonprofit organizations that provide services to LMI, small or minority development businesses
Local/state government for CD activities in LMI area improvement projects
Community requests that support CRA qualified investments include grants, donations/contributions, or deposits/shares in, or to:
Donations to homeless shelters
Contributions to scholarships funds designated to LMI students
Purchase stock in a Community Development Corporation
Equity investments in a low-income housing tax credit project
Contribution to a Healthcare Crisis Center providing free health care services to LMI individuals
Donations to a CRA qualified organization to sponsor a fundraising event which benefits the organization’s mission
Team members work hard to develop strong and genuine relationships with local partners. Whether it’s financial literacy training or donating water, food, and toiletries to organizations, this work is embedded in our DNA and motivates us every day.
Financial literacy is essential for functioning effectively in modern society, and critical for improving the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities. We have longstanding financial education initiatives with primary and secondary schools in our hometown, and in January 2020 we launched “Raise the Banner,” a financial education targeting youth, enlisted soldiers and transitioning veterans, victims of domestic violence, people experiencing homelessness, senior adults, and others. We also partner with Operation Hope to provide financial literacy and credit counseling for individuals and families in need.
We offer accessible and affordable consumer products, including no-fee retail checking options and a range of other products with flexible fee structures. We have advanced our internal infrastructure and increased training to empower team members with the knowledge and capacity to meet a wide array of needs from our customers. Affordable housing specialists throughout our footprint focus solely on homebuyer workshops, financial education, and mortgage loan originations. In 2020, we exceeded our CRA targets, as seen in the tables below.
Community Development Loans
3Q20 $ Amt
Performance to Guideline
% of Guideline
CRA Qualified Contributions
3Q20 $ Amt
Performance to Guideline
% of Guideline
CRA Bank Investment Portfolio
2Q20 $ Amt
Performance to Guideline
% of Guideline
CRA Qualified Services
2020 Guideline (Hours)
3Q20 # of Services
3Q20 Total Hours
Performance to Guideline
% of Guideline
In 2015, we established a $25 million affordable mortgage program for first-time homebuyers and other borrowers who may require assistance to purchase a residence. Available funding for the program increased to $100 million in 20171 and $400 million in 2019, with approximately $284 million in loans funded through the third quarter of 2020. The affordable mortgage program offers the possibility of 100 percent financing, the potential to qualify with a credit score as low as 620, and the ability to layer on down payment assistance programs. In 2020, we invested more than $80 million in low-income housing properties through low-income housing tax credit transactions.
Also in 2020, we collaborated with Freddie Mac on a program in metro Atlanta to assist low income and credit-challenged borrowers seeking sustainable home ownership. The program, Pathway 2 Homeownership, consists of three main components: a matched savings program to build funds towards a down payment, credit rebuilding and financial training, and assistance towards closing costs based on rental payment performance. Saving for a down payment is the biggest barrier to achieving homeownership. Through this collaborative partnership, and more than 120 additional down payment assistance programs in which we participate, Synovus looks forward to lending to many first-time homeowners equipped for long-term financial success.
An important demonstration of our commitment to communities is Here Matters, our community outreach program. Here Matters builds on a century-plus legacy of service to local communities as the bank of here, focusing Synovus’ volunteer and financial contributions in three areas: education, needs-based opportunities, and health and wellness. Synovus team members demonstrate that Here Matters through footprint-wide projects in the spring and fall — and through rapid response to event-driven needs.
Synovus’ Corporate Giving Strategy outlines our formal process for aligning with various organizations, making corporate donations, and participating in volunteer opportunities. In 2020, our company invested more than $3 million in over 500 non-profits and agencies in our five-state footprint.
One example is our partnership with Mercer University School of Medicine, with whom we sponsor medical students for a rural medicine program to provide health care to rural, impoverished areas of Georgia. The Mercer partnership reflects our concern about access to quality medical care, especially with a global pandemic and economic insecurity plaguing many families.
In 2020, we made a $1 million contribution to UNCF (United Negro College Fund) to provide scholarships for African American students to attend historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other institutions of higher education in our five-state footprint.
Additionally, many members of our local leadership and management teams sit on the boards of directors of agencies and organizations committed to creating tangible change in disadvantaged areas.
Selling Practices and Product Labeling
Synovus has a robust corporate compliance program to ensure selling practices are conducted in an ethical manner and products and services are accurately communicated and marketed to clients. We adhere to all relevant legal and regulatory policies for our jurisdictions and collect feedback from customers to improve their experience and understanding of our services. Any issues are escalated and ultimately reported to senior management via a formal customer complaints process.
We monitor customer feedback closely and make changes accordingly to ensure we are continuously improving our processes and customer experience. With increased inquiries in 2020, we revamped our mortgage service standards and developed additional tools to guide our staff. Our leadership team reviews a complaints dashboard and escalated issues on a monthly basis to ensure compliance with our policies and procedures.
Customer Privacy and Data Security
Keeping company and customer data secure is a top priority at Synovus. We are well aware of increasing data security risks and actively work to ensure our systems are highly secure and customer information is protected. Our page on Safety and Security outlines specific ways we protect customer data and information, tips for customers and small businesses, and how to report data or privacy issues.
Our Board of Directors is actively engaged in the oversight of Synovus’ information security risk management and cybersecurity programs.2 The Risk Committee receives regular updates from the company’s Chief Information Security Officer on our information security and cyber risk strategy, cyber defense initiatives, cyber event preparedness, and cybersecurity risk assessments. The Risk Committee annually approves the information security program. We keep computer forensics, legal, and security firms on retainer in case of a cyber breach event. We engage independent third-parties to perform annual penetration tests against our network. We also conduct incident response exercises at least once per quarter.
We provide regular education and training to our Board and team members on cybersecurity and social engineering to mitigate risk and conduct exercises to test their effectiveness. Internally, we have a security response team (SRT) made up of cross functional areas such as IT, legal, communications and risk compliance. Our internal platform also houses a portal with videos, phishing exercises, quizzes, and podcasts to engage team members on this topic.4
We are members of financial sector organizations, including the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), that share cyber and physical threat, vulnerability, and incident information for the good of the membership. Our information security program employs a wide variety of technologies intended to secure our operations and proprietary information. 4 This in-depth defense strategy focuses on protecting our networks, systems, data, and facilities from attacks or unauthorized access. We have a dedicated security operations center to monitor and respond to cyber events.
Synovus has privacy statements that disclose how we collect, share, and use customer information. We participate in annual risk and compliance audits to ensure our practices are consistent with our policies. We have a robust customer complaint process and use it to guide process improvements as it relates to customer information security. Customers also provide feedback on their interactions with the bank. We have a wide array of resources to point customers to questions regarding the information we collect, why we collect it, and what we do with the information we collect from or about you through various digital platforms including our mobile app.
Synovus Bank utilizes credit bureau data in underwriting activities. Use of this data is regulated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V on a uniform, nationwide basis, including credit reporting, prescreening, and sharing of information between affiliates and the use of credit data. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act, permits states to enact identity theft laws that are not inconsistent with the conduct required by the provisions of that Act. We are also required to have an information security program to safeguard the confidentiality and security of customer information and to ensure proper disposal. Customers must be notified when unauthorized disclosure involves sensitive customer information that may be misused.3
Supply Chain Management
Our values of corporate citizenship and sustainability extend to our partners and vendors, and we expect anyone doing business with us to uphold their own operations to applicable legal and regulatory standards with respect to human rights, ethics, health and safety and the environment.
We also have a supplier diversity program in which we offer qualified minorities, women and veteran-owned businesses the opportunity to compete on an equal basis with all other vendors. Historically under-represented businesses, along with their owners and team members, represent an important portion of Synovus’ regional demographics and customer base. A strong and diverse supplier base is reflective of our hallmark values of leadership, relationships, and excellence in service. We hold several membership affiliations with regional organizations to ensure access to a wider pool of diverse suppliers. These include the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise Council and Financial Services Roundtable for Supplier Diversity.
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