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Updated on March 24, 2020 to include information about shelter-in-place orders in Austin. See below.
As the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus COVID-19, we would like to take a moment to provide an update about the steps RateGenius is taking to keep a healthy work environment while serving a current surge in customer demand.
First, our hearts go out to everyone affected by this pandemic. We appreciate everyone who is working to contain the virus, as well as those maintaining operations to keep our hospitals staffed, our shelves stocked, our families fed, facilities sanitized, and more. We are eternally grateful for your hard work.
What’s Going on at RateGenius?
As a result of the federal rate cuts earlier this month, RateGenius has seen a large uptick in auto refinance loan applications — which makes sense, given that people will want to take advantage of the low rates in order to save money, especially in times of uncertainty. However, it means our office is busier than usual during a very tricky time.
We would like to assure you that the well-being of our employees is our top priority. We are monitoring the situation closely and implementing recommendations provided by the CDC and local authorities to make sure we are keeping our Geniuses safe while also serving our customers.
About Financial Services
As a fintech company, RateGenius handles and processes consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII). This includes:
- Social Security numbers
- Work information
- Tax documents
On a daily basis, more than half of our workforce processes customer PII. As a result, RateGenius has to balance safeguarding our customers’ data while providing work-from-home options for our employees.
Are RateGenius Employees Working From Home?
Currently, almost 20% of our company is working from home. Beginning March 21, 2020, our plan is to offer work from home to all employees that can sufficiently protect our customers’ data in accordance with federal statutes and regulations. Specifically, this requires secure home environments, virtual private networks on all employee computers, and access to our secure phone network. We expect 75% or more of our workforce to be working from home by Wednesday, March 25th.
For our in-office employees, we’ve implemented safety measures recommended by the CDC, including social distancing, frequent sanitation of our facility, banning visitors from entering our building, and self-quarantines for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. We’ve also implemented the following measures:
- RateGenius has increased the frequency of our cleaning and disinfecting regimen, including the disinfection of all the door knobs, handles to coffee pots, ice makers, refrigerators, microwave, and general area surfaces.
- On March 21, 2020, our office space will be cleaned and fogged with an EPA registered antimicrobial coating.
- We are regularly reminding our employees of good hygiene practices. We are providing hand sanitizer to our employees and disinfectant wipes to clean personal work spaces as needed. Latex gloves and alcohol wipes are also available.
- All meetings (internal and external) are being done via conference call to ensure we’re adhering to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations.
- All employees that are able to work remotely under proper PII compliance protocols are being asked to work from home.
- With several of our teams working remotely, it has allowed the rest of our staff to adjust their work spaces to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations.
RateGenius started planning for work from home in February and began asking employees to work from home the week of March 9th. We plan on continuing to move people to work from home as more equipment and resources become available. However, this will continue to be done with our customers’ data security in mind.
Why can’t all employees work from home?
Unlike traditional technology companies, RateGenius processes a significant amount of paper documentation. As part of our refinance process, RateGenius handles loan documents and auto title information within all 50 states. In particular, almost all auto titles are paper-based documents and certain processes need to be completed within our office.
RateGenius is committed to having as many people work from home as possible while creating ample social distance and a clean environment for employees that need to be present to meet our customers’ needs.
Has anyone at RateGenius tested positive for COVID-19?
At this time, no employee has tested positive for COVID-19. Self-quarantines were implemented in early March as a result of travel to areas with active cases. However, these employees were asked to work-from-home immediately upon notification and did not go to the office after arriving from their destinations.
What else are you doing to protect in-office employees?
Earlier this month we announced other policies to protect the safety of our workforce and their families.
- We have suspended work-related travel until further notice. If any of our employees are traveling for personal reasons, they are required to check in with HR as to their destination ahead of time as well as prior to returning to the office. If they have traveled to areas known to be affected by the coronavirus, the employee will be asked to work from home or use PTO up to 14 days to ensure they are not personally affected by the virus.
- Visitors are no longer allowed to enter our office building. Food deliveries must be left outside in a designated area.
- All entrances require an employee badge to enter to prevent unauthorized visitors.
Employee Absences Due to Coronavirus
- If any of our employees are experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus or other illnesses such as the flu, cold, etc., we are asking that they stay home. If we see that one of our employees is showing signs of being ill, they will be sent home immediately and their work space will be disinfected.
- Employees missing more than four days of work must provide a doctor’s note stating they are fully released to return to work.
- If a RateGenius employee comes into contact with anyone that tests positive for coronavirus, the employee must notify Human Resources immediately. The employee will not be able to return to work until they have been tested for the virus and cleared by medical authorities.
- If a RateGenius employee personally tests positive for the coronavirus, they must notify Human Resources immediately and will not be allowed to return to the office until cleared by medical authorities.
Measures Taken if a RateGenius Employee is Diagnosed with Coronavirus
- If an employee is diagnosed with Coronavirus, we will immediately notify the CDC and/or appropriate authorities and follow their protocols.
- We have already established a relationship with a decontamination company and the office can be completely sterilized within approximately 48 hours.
- Upon the clearance given by the decontamination company, we will notify employees through their managers of the date and time the office will reopen.
What Can RateGenius Customers Expect During This Time?
We want to assure our customers that we’re here to serve you. We’ve put together a business contingency plan (our lending partners have done the same) to make sure we continue “business as usual” in this environment and not have an interruption in service.
RateGenius Business Hours
Our business hours have remained the same. You can apply for an auto refinance loan on our website or by phone. Customer service is available to assist via chat on our website during that time.
Monday to Friday: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT
Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT
So far there has been 30% increase in application volume since the federal rate cuts were announced. At this time, we have not been experiencing any delays in processing auto refinancing applications. We are communicating with our lender partners daily to monitor any changes or disruptions.
3/24/20 Update: What About Shelter-in-Place Orders in the Austin area?
Shelter-in-place orders have been announced for residents in Austin, as well as Travis and Williamson Counties. These orders take effect at 12:00 a.m. on March 25 through April 13 and state that residents must remain in their homes unless they are performing an essential activity or service.
Financial institutions, such as banks and loan originators like RateGenius, are considered an essential service by the state of Texas as they play a vital role in the economy.
Again, our employees’ safety is our number one priority. As of this update, over 80% of RateGenius employees are now working from home. For the remaining employees who must come into the office to complete important functions of the business for our customers, we are still adhering to CDC guidelines, providing ample social distance, rotating shifts, and continuing our frequent sanitation process throughout our facilities. We will continue to track updates from local, state, and national officials about shelter-in-place orders and make adjustments as required.
Again, RateGenius’ priority is to maintain a healthy and safe environment for our employees while remaining committed toward serving our customers’ needs.
Rest assured, we will continue to monitor the situation very closely, especially as it pertains to the greater Austin, Texas region where we are located. We will evaluate and implement additional measures as they’re required.