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Winter storms across Texas temporarily delayed auto refinance loan processing, but applications largely remained steady — except in Texas.
Last week, millions of Texans endured subfreezing winter weather that resulted in power grid failures, water outages, dangerous road conditions, among other infrastructure failures. Since temperatures started to rise over the weekend, we’ve only begun to learn about the level of devastation.
Our hearts go out to all of those affected by this winter storm, and we are grateful for first responders, food workers, friends, neighbors, and strangers who have stepped up to help — even as many of them also did not have power, electricity, or drinking water in their own homes.
As you may already be aware, RateGenius is based in Austin, Texas, the heart of the Lone Star State. Our own employees and their families were also greatly affected by the winter weather. As a result, we had to take steps to not only protect our employees’ safety but also continue serving our customers across the country.
Here’s how the weather impacted RateGenius, what we’re doing to catch up, and how Winter Storm Uri impacted auto refinance applications across the country — specifically, Texas.
RateGenius Operations Week of February 15, 2021
RateGenius began notifying employees of potential winter weather on Wednesday, February 10. The building was already prepared to continue running with a generator should there be a power outage.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of RateGenius’s employees are already working from home. However, due to the nature of their work, some employees must work at the office (socially-distanced and with CDC guidelines in place). This includes loan processors, fulfillment, titles, and other departments that handle paper-based documentation or other in-office processes in accordance with the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC).
Power outages began in the Austin area late Sunday, February 14 and early Monday, February 15. RateGenius delayed start time on Monday, February 15 but ultimately asked employees not to travel if it was not safe as we all discovered the severity of this weather and power outages.
The winter storm resulted in other complications:
- Mail could not be delivered. UPS packages and USPS mail were not delivered to the RateGenius office the entire week. Our loan officers, loan processors, print team, titles team, and others signed up to work on Saturday, February 20 when hundreds of mail packages were scheduled to be delivered to the office. Unfortunately, the delivery never arrived.
- Fuel became hard to find. A RateGenius employee purchased and filled a 100-gallon fuel tank at the office to keep our generator running when fuel trucks were prohibited driving on the roads by the Texas Department of Transportation.
- IT operations were threatened. As power outages continued throughout Austin, employees voluntarily walked through miles of ice and snow to other homes to get power and maintain the RateGenius website and infrastructure operations.
- Employee availability was limited. With an unreliable power grid across the majority of the state, the majority of our employees experienced a disruption (power, water, internet, or all of the above) and were unable to work. For example, fewer than half of all loan officers were able to work — leaving many customers unable to reach a RateGenius representative.
As more days-long power outages were reported throughout the city, RateGenius offered employees a safe space to keep warm if it was safe to travel. Icy conditions on the roads remained through the end of the week.
RateGenius Operations Are (Almost) Back to Normal
As snow melted and roads cleared up, now it came time to catch up on a week’s worth of loan application activity.
On Monday, February 22, the first mail package delivery was made to the RateGenius office since Friday, February 12. The amount of mail packages received was 168% higher than the daily average. More mail packages will be delivered over the next few days. We expect to be caught up with deliveries by Thursday, February 25.
The outages also resulted in a loan processing backlog. This means we weren’t able to send loans to our lenders and close loans. We’re working hard to process this high volume of loan applications on behalf of our customers and lender partners. All hands are on deck as employees work overtime through the backlog.
Thanks to the hard work of our team, we expect to be caught up by Monday, March 1. We apologize to our customers across the country for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we work through this unprecedented event.
Winter Storm Impact on Auto Refinance Applications
Although the winter storm affected much of the Southwest, auto loan refinancing demand remained strong. We looked at the previous three weeks leading up to the winter storm and found that auto refinance applications only fell by 8% across the U.S.
Texas, on the other hand, saw a much bigger drop in application volume — 37% — on the week beginning February 15. This is in comparison to the average of the previous three weeks.
It’s too soon to tell when Texas application volume will pick up again. However, the small decline overall is an indicator that strong consumer demand for auto loan refinancing will continue throughout 2021.