Our Stories

    Achieving the Dream of Homeownership

    Jun 12, 2017
    In his June 1 presidential proclamation, President Trump reflected on the important role homeownership plays in building household wealth, stabilizing neighborhoods, and fortifying the nation’s economic health.

    For many hardworking Americans, however, the path to homeownership is not always clear. As the president noted, “Many young families are unable to achieve the independence they desire because they have difficulty saving for a down payment, overcoming regulatory burdens or gaining access to adequate credit.”

    Enter community bankers. As trusted financial advisers with a stake in their customers’ success, community bankers can be a guiding force to help prospective homeowners navigate a complicated and protracted process and realize the dream of owning a home.

    “Mortgage borrowers are not cookie cutter. Each has a unique story,” says Jack Hartings, president and CEO of the Peoples Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio. That is why it’s so important to work one-on-one with prospective homebuyers to identify the right loan to fit their circumstances and position them for success, he suggests.

    Hartings says smaller community banks have as much to offer as the biggest lenders. Meanwhile, community banks should continue to seek out millennial customers, who represent the largest share of homebuyers (34 percent), and share with them the wealth of offerings available at their local community bank, he advises.

    When developing a modern lending experience tailored to today’s prospective homeowners, community banks need to:

    Create a strong online presence. According to the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generation Trends report, 93 percent of buyers 36 years old and younger (millennials) used a website to begin their home search. A strong online presence is key to attracting this tech-savvy demographic.

    Explain the mortgage process. Define mortgage jargon and share and compare mortgage loan options. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. offer resources to help demystify the home-buying process for first-time homebuyers.

    Leverage technology for greater efficiency. NAR reports that 58 percent of millennials and 46 percent of Generation X buyers (aged 37 to 51) found their home by conducting searches via a mobile app. Technology can also help banks streamline the application and approval process, providing greater efficiencies for the bank and a faster approval process for customers.

    Consider financing alternatives. Many millennials carry student loan debt and may have less money saved for a down payment or closing costs. Be sure to highlight suitable loan program options to address these concerns.

    “We often tell consumers when they come in to gather important documents—pay stubs and W-2s and statements on assets—to give them a good financial picture of themselves and what they can afford,” Hartings explains. Sometimes this analysis shows that now isn’t the right time to purchase a home. In such instances, community bankers are quick to create a roadmap for would-be homeowners that can help put them on the path to homeownership.

    “I’m so proud when these customers come back to the bank and they have put in the work and now they’re ready to take the plunge,” he says.

    Join @ICBA at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday, June 19, for a Twitter chat that will highlight resources community bankers can share with customers to help them navigate the home-buying process. Follow the #HomeownershipChat hashtag.

    Giving Praise Where It’s Due

    May 25, 2017

    Volunteering and community service are the hallmark of every community bank. Along with providing superior customer service, common-sense business practices, and local lending expertise, community bankers work hand-in-hand with consumers, small-business owners and local nonprofits to make their communities better places to live and work.

    Whether it’s providing a venue for young musicians to showcase their talents and raise funds for a worthy cause, helping a community recover following a natural disaster, or promoting area businesses and nonprofits to support the economy, community banks are difference-makers and the bedrock of their communities.

    Service is what sets community banks apart, makes them stand out, and is the genesis behind ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards program. More than 100 distinguished bankers have been recognized for their altruistic efforts through the program. Four are highlighted below and serve as a heartening testament to the wide variety of public service contributions that community banks make every day throughout the nation.

    2014 Honoree First Columbia Bank & Trust

    In the seven years since its music competition program was introduced, Bloomsburg, Pa.-based First Columbia Bank & Trust has given away $35,000 in prize money and raised an additional $35,000 in ticket proceeds and donations that have gone directly to local high school music departments. The schools have used that money to purchase items such as sound equipment, new instruments and sheet music.

    “It has really evolved into something that the whole community looks forward to,” said Lance O. Diehl, president and CEO of the $700 million-asset bank.

    2009 Honorees Lincoln Savings Bank and First National Bank

    In the spring of 2008, when a category 5 tornado and subsequent flooding hit the state of Iowa, $950 million-asset Lincoln Savings Bank and $358 million-asset First National Bank mobilized their resources to lend a helping hand. 

    The Lincoln Savings Bank Foundation was used to collect funds nationwide and distribute grants to disaster victims. Bank employees were responsible for getting the word out, fielding phone calls, processing applications and releasing grant money. In total, more than $1 million was collected and redistributed to 560 individuals, who received financial assistance ranging from $500 to $1,000. 

    Like Lincoln Savings, First National Bank employees sprung into action in the days and weeks following the storm. They worked side-by-side with deployed National Guard troops in sandbagging efforts and distributed sack lunches to affected citizens. Within a week after the floods, bank President and CEO Rich Carlson put the bank’s $1 million loan portfolio cash stream to work. Through Oct. 31, 2008, the bank extended 62 low-interest loans to residents in nine communities for a $700,000 cash infusion into the area. 

    “We just wanted to do what we could,” said Carlson.

    2016 Honoree Woodlands Bank

    As part of its “Get Local, Give Local and Go Local” social media campaign, the $390 million-asset Woodlands Bank identified local nonprofits representing four areas of need—shel­ter, food, youth development and clothing—to provide monetary support when customers opened an account or interacted with the bank’s Facebook page. More than 9,500 meals, 100 nights of shelter, 90 outfits and 1,000 hours of activities were generated during the three-month campaign.

    Just as important as the financial contribution was shedding a spotlight on an important social issue, said Jamie Caputo, development and community relations director for Northern Tier. The local food bank was one of the organizations to receive donations through the Woodlands Bank initiative.

    “Having a bank come alongside us like Woodlands that supports us—as well as other local organizations—to bring awareness to our mission is absolutely fantastic,” says Caputo. “They are folks who are truly invested in making the community better.”

    Community banks are invited to join the patchwork of stories showcasing the important role they play in small towns and big cities across the country by submitting a nomination for this year’s National Community Bank Service Awards. Nominations are due Friday, June 2.

    Community Bank Differentiators: Sharing Without Showing Off

    Apr 25, 2017

    Community banking might be about business first and foremost, but it’s the opportunity to make a difference that attracts and retains the industry’s best and brightest, according to a recent Independent Banker article.

    “If you look at membership in any community civic organization, chances are you will find at least one community banker involved in that organization, giving his or her time, and an employer encouraging that involvement,” explains Tim Treml, president and CEO of Bank of Luxemburg, Wis.

    The $308-million asset bank sponsors Bank of Luxemburg Care Days, in which each employee is given eight hours of paid time to volunteer annually for something in the community. The bank also provides an after-hours meeting space for local civic organizations.

    “When I go home at the end of the day and reflect on what we have accomplished, it gives me a good feeling,” Treml says. 

    Treml’s account is just one of many demonstrating how community bankers contribute in big and small ways to the overall health of their communities, not only by funding the dreams of their customers, but also through their charitable endeavors, many of which are performed with little or no fanfare. 

    For the Greater Good

    Spreading the word about their philanthropic endeavors—monetary or otherwise—is more than about generating good press, however. It’s a chance to educate the public at large about the vital role community banks play in helping local neighborhoods thrive when the deposits and loans of their citizens are redistributed back into the community.

    The question becomes: How can community banks tell their story in a way that authentically sets them apart? Here are a few tips to get started:

    Partner with Charities and Organizations for Joint Messages--When community banks partner with the charities and organizations they give their time and money to, the messaging becomes stronger and less promotional. Inviting a charity representative to guest blog or sync up for a live video session gives partner organizations an additional channel to spread the word about their cause, while highlighting the community bank’s participation and support.

    Rally the TroopsIt’s no secret that community bank employees love making a difference in their neighborhoods, schools and local charities. By encouraging employees to share their pictures and what specific events and opportunities mean to them, community banks can give customers—existing and potential—a glimpse of the bank’s culture and its driving principles.

    Community Spirit Bank spotlighted the personal stories its employees have with a simple social media campaign in which employees shared why they love being community bankers. Social media participation can be even easier with pre-written tweets to share with employees that can be copied and pasted.

    Make Volunteer and Donation Data More InterestingThose pictures featuring bank employees holding a check are important, but volunteer hours can be just as impressive. Gate City Bank crunched their 2016 numbers, presenting an awe-inspiring amount of time given to their area: more than 12,700 hours!

    Want more ideas to help promote economic development and bolster your bank’s brand?  Consider the following:

    1. Partner with your bank’s customers to form a professional network or program to present educational content targeting startups.
    2. Create a buzz about your bank and support a good cause by sponsoring a community-related activity or hosting an event.
    3. Encourage your community to shop, dine and bank locally by bringing small-business owners and consumers together in a central location. Whether organizing a large-scale event or a small mixer, show the importance of frequenting local businesses by giving locals easy access to them.
    4. Start a conversation to help educate consumers and small-business owners about how to improve their money-management skills. Check out ICBA’s website for a list of available financial literacy resources to help you get started.

    As Community Banking Month comes to a close, we have the rest of 2017 to come together and share what makes community banks such a vital part of our local economies as well as our local identities.

    To continue the conversation about all of the creative ways community banks can differentiate their brands, watch our recent community banking marketing webinar in partnership with Social Assurance.

    The Community Bank Difference

    Apr 16, 2017

    Community banks lend, invest and donate locally. It’s a philosophy that guides their interactions with their customers and allows them to look beyond the balance sheet to how each loan benefits their entire community. It’s the community bank difference.

    “As a kid I was taught, ‘leave everything a little better than how you found it.’ Growing up I realized that this is more than a just a campsite rule,” said Benjamin Nelson, senior vice president of residential mortgage lending at D. L Evans Bank in Burley, Idaho, recently told Independent Banker. “As a community bank we are involved with our customers and our community. Our knowledge and concern for them allows us to make both our customers and our community better.”

    D.L. Evans Bank is hardly alone in its effort to uplift its community. Thousands of community bankers across the nation donate their time and financial support to help their neighborhoods thrive.

    “Every April we emphasize Community Banking Month to try to tell our story about why we support local business,” Greg Raymo, president and CEO of First State Bank Southwest in Worthington, Minn., told the Daily Globe.

    This year the community bank will surprise four small businesses with a “cash mob” to help encourage local commerce. “Local businesses are the key to the success of the bank, and they’re the catalyst to making the community successful,” said Raymo.

    The bank also supports several local entities through the First State Bank Southwest Charitable Program. “Investing our profits back into the community … helps make continued growth possible,” said Raymo.

    Impacting Families

    Home Bank President and CEO Dan Moore wants to tackle serious issues affecting his community in Central Indiana.

    “Last Christmas we gave all of our employees $200 each and said, ‘we want you to go out to the community and find a worthwhile cause,’” Moore said. After reviewing the results he realized the effort was like “putting a Band-Aid on the problem.” A more effective long-term solution was needed, he said, leading to the creation of “Bridges out of Poverty.” “Community leaders have rallied behind the program, which Moore believes will change [generational poverty] in our community in the next five, 10, 20 years.”

     

    The bank also donates 10 percent of its earnings to non-profits through its “community bank dividend” program. Initiated in 2014, the program is directed by a committee of employees representing all departments across the organization. 

    “Beyond the organizations that we support, the impact of our gifting has also been felt within our organization, further strengthening our culture which is based upon the tenets of servant leadership,” said Lisa Arnold, senior vice president and chief operations officer at the Martinsville, Ind.-based bank.

    Time Matters to Communities

    Lending resources to important causes in the community is powerful. But equally important is donating time and energy.

    In 2016 alone, Gate City Bank volunteered more than 12,700 hours (approximately 22 hours per employee).

    “We want to give back to the community,” Gate City Bank Senior Personal Loan Officer and Assistant Vice President Christa Schwartzenberger told Bismark-Mandan Chamber Connection. “It’s not just giving back financially; it’s giving back our time.”

    With so many impactful community initiatives taking off across the nation, it’s important that community bankers share their stories. Not only does it highlight the important role community banks serve in their neighborhoods and local economies, it can inspire other community leaders to pitch in and make a difference.

    Have a story to share? ICBA wants to feature you! Email your blog posts, news stories, social media posts, pictures and videos to communications@icba.org or tag us @ICBA on Twitter using the hashtag #BankLocally.

    High-Tech + High-Touch: The Perfect Pairing

    Apr 07, 2017

    Strong customer relationships are the cornerstone of community banking, but utilizing high-tech interactions is becoming an increasingly important way to foster more powerful relationships and remain competitive. In today’s commoditized environment, delivering a better customer experience has become a key differentiator.

     “There is an incredible opportunity for community banks to lead with technology while never losing sight of our personal service,” said ICBA Chairman Scott Heitkamp during an address to the nation's community bankers at ICBA Community Banking LIVE® in San Antonio last month.

    “Technology can make us difference makers in our community bank strategy. In many cases, it already has.”

    Holyoke, Mass.-based PeoplesBank created a special department to evaluate and implement new customer-facing technology and improve existing technology.

    A review of the bank’s mobile banking platform revealed that a segment of its customers were making special trips to the branch to deposit larger checks when their usage behavior suggested a preference for remote deposits.

    After determining the customers presented a low-fraud risk, the bank increased its mobile deposit limit. 

    Working in Tandem

    When Claremont Savings Bank in New Hampshire closed one of its branches, the bank decided to replace it with a “technology branch” nearby featuring two “smart teller” machines

    “The idea was that customers would do most of their regular transactions at the machine, which would free up the staff to interact with more customers in other ways and cement their relationships with them,” said Brenda Reed, senior vice present of retail services for the Springfield, Vt.-based bank.

    There’s also a direct video connection from the machines to the bank’s call center, allowing customers with questions about the technology or their account to see and talk with a person immediately.

    “The customers who try it love it,” Reed says.

    “Effective technology simply shortens the gaps between personal interactions,” said Kristen Zell, a product specialist for ProfitStars speaking at a session during ICBA’s convention. “It enhances the relationship between the lender and the borrower rather than replacing it.”

    Local businesses want both fast loan decisions and “someone who can advise them and connect them to others in the community,” said Peter Rice, senior vice president for small business lending at the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Bank. Even though the bank’s small-business loans can be approved and funded in as little as eight hours, most commercial borrowers don’t need money that fast, he noted.

    “Technology is huge,” he continued. “But you must have a culture” that appreciates each borrower’s uniqueness as well, Rice explained.

    Although embracing technology has become a necessity in the financial industry, delving in requires a thoughtful plan and, in some cases, change management for both customers and employees.

    “I don’t think any of us needs a crystal ball to see what’s coming. Fintech will continue to migrate to mobile-first solutions. Tablets will replace computers. The Internet of Things will explode, driving digital convergence,” said ICBA Bancard president and CEO, Tina Giorgio.  In her blog, “Tina’s Take on Payments,” she outlines practical steps bankers can follow to evaluate their payment landscape and engage leaders and the appropriate stakeholders at the bank.

    For a more complex or rapidly evolving product like mobile wallets you can use a chart to track and evaluate opportunities against your bank’s key metrics, explains Giorgio, who said bankers should be prepared to ask and answer questions like:

    • Is this product relevant to current and future customers?
    • Will it increase our revenue or reduce our expenses?
    • What resources will be needed for implementation?
    • How is marketplace adoption?
    • How will the product/service integrate with our existing offerings and what will the customer experience look like?

    Once you’ve got the necessary components in place you’ll be well on your way to delivering a memorable customer experience that delivers on all fronts and helps your bank stand apart from the crowd.

    “With the speed that technology is moving, it’s our responsibility to make sure the bank stays competitive and meets, or hopefully exceeds our customers’ expectations,” says PeoplesBank vice president, Karen Buell.

    Community Banks Make Communities Better

    Mar 31, 2017

    Small business creation is about as American as apple pie and is essential to our nation’s economy. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

    But did you know that community banks like Bank of the West in Grapevine, Texas, are the primary economic engines behind small businesses on Main Street—funding more than half of all small-business loans? 

    “I was able to give my hairstylist, Kim, a loan to acquire a salon when the owner died. She was a young lady, she had good credit, but didn’t have a lot of collateral,” Cynthia Blankenship said during testimony before the House Small Business Committee. In total, nine stylists were employed because of that loan, noted Blankenship who serves as vice chairman, chief financial officer and corporate president at Bank of the West.

    “It’s our job to put that customer in the right finance tool to get them their credit availability. Our reputation and integrity is riding on this as well.”

    This April, in recognition of Community Banking month and the symbiotic relationship community banks have with their customers, we’re highlighting examples of community banks that are making their communities better places to live and work.

    Giving Back

    Community banks do much more than provide capital, however. They fill key roles as trusted financial advisors, mentors and philanthropists.

    Mike Kochenour, chairman and CEO of York Traditions Bank in York, Pa., has built a thriving career and bank. Like many community bankers, Kochenour is eager to pass on what he’s learned to up-and-coming business owners.

    “Word has gotten around that you can call him and he’ll answer! He wants to serve as a resource to help everyone reach their potential,” Suzanne Becker, marketing director at the bank shared with IB magazine.

    Community banks are known for courting customers and now Allied First Bank in Oswego, Ill., has taken that role literally—building a basketball court into its headquarters for sports, fundraisers and community activities.

    “Many, many times I’m out in the community talking about the bank or trying to attract new customers and inevitably what I hear is, ‘Oh, you’re the bank with the basketball court. I’ve got to come see that,’” said Allied First president and CEO Kenneth Bertrand.

    When Citizens Bank of Edmond, Okla., is not helping local small businesses and consumers across its community, the bank is making a splash in its neighborhood with Heard on Hurd. With President and CEO Jill Castilla leading the charge, the bank’s Heard on Hurd street festival is bringing together families, friends and small businesses every third Saturday from March through October.

    “With $4 million in local economic impact, our little bank community’s appreciation event is making a big impact in the Oklahoma City metro area,” Castilla told the Edmond Sun.

    The name Dons Net Café may sound like a coffee shop, but Santa Barbara Senior High students aren’t baristas-in-training. They’re studying a range of business topics from financial literacy to profit analysis to order management. Montecito Bank & Trust in Santa Barbara, Calif., became involved after one of the bank’s financial advisors, Chris Morales, began teaching a class on ethics issues related to economics. 

    “I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of my ‘gang’ kids walk up to Mr. Morales and shake his hands after a class,” wrote Lee Knodel, a teacher who runs the school program. “That kid is now going to college, wears, completely different clothes. Together, Montecito Bank & Trust and the Dons Net Café have changed many lives.”

    There are countless examples of the powerful impact community banks have on their consumer and small business customers, but community banks are so much more than lenders and business partners. They are a vital part of their neighborhoods. Community bankers coach youth sports, sponsor workshops, lead civic organizations, and spend hours offering their time and talents to help their communities thrive.

    For more examples of community banks and bankers making a difference across the nation during ICBA Community Banking Month and beyond, follow #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter. To find your local community bank, visit ICBA’s Community Bank Locator at www.banklocally.org.

    4 Reasons Why Loving Your Community Will Help Grow Your Career

    Feb 02, 2017

    Millennials are starting more companies, managing bigger staffs, and targeting higher profits than their baby boom predecessors, according to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report.

    So, it’s no surprise that career and professional development are at the forefront of millennial’s minds. If you’re among the millennial set you may already be utilizing the top online tools to bolster your career, but you could be overlooking one of the most rewarding ways to catapult your professional development: community involvement.

    The importance of local involvement is something community bankers identify with as relationship-based lenders who routinely extend their services beyond their velvet ropes and into their neighborhoods for the benefit of locals who call it home. Community banks prove that by getting involved, you can make powerful connections while building a flourishing, thriving neighborhood.

    Woodlands Bank in Williamsport, Pa., is just one example of the support and involvement community banks are known for. The bank launched a media campaign supporting area businesses and nonprofits. As part of its campaign, Woodlands Bank identified four local nonprofits representing four different areas of need in the community—shel­ter, food, youth development and clothing—and provided monetary support when customers opened an account or interacted with the bank’s Facebook page. More than 9,500 meals, 100 nights of shelter, 90 outfits and 1,000 hours of activities were generated during the three-month initiative

    As you set your goals for the New Year, think about making your community part of your career and personal growth plan. A local approach to your goals can propel you further than you think.

    Need more reasons to get involved in your area? Learn how loving your community can help you:

    1. Gain Valuable Networking Opportunities

    You don’t have to attend formal networking events to meet other business owners and like-minded professionals in your area.

    By attending volunteer events, you’ll encounter other professionals and residents in more low-pressure settings, helping you create more powerful connections than merely searching LinkedIn.

    As a bonus, your fellow volunteers may end up as future customers, partners, mentors or investors.

    Overwhelmed about where you can find other local entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals to connect with? Check in with your local community bank to see if they offer any networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in the community.

    Eastern Virginia Bank’s POWER (Potential of Women Entrepreneurs Realized) program includes a combination of educational events, networking opportunities and enhanced bank services. “We found that so many of the women business owners had no place to turn for advice, such as writing business plans or getting financing,” says Gail Hubbard, the POWER program manager, “so education is a huge part of the program.” Connecting female business owners with one another at POWER events, through social media and via a membership directory, is a key component of the program, Hubbard says.

    2. Add Skills to Your Résumé

    According to the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey, 92 percent of respondents agree that volunteering improves professional skill sets.

    Look for volunteer opportunities in your community that are tied to your professional goals while challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Learning new skills is exciting and you’ll also gain fresh experiences to add to your résumé and professional profiles.

    3. Reflect Positively on Your Growing Small Business & Colleagues

    By volunteering and investing your time into your community, you’ll show your peers and colleagues that you’re a team player who values growth and improvement on a local level.  

    The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 revealed that just more than half (54 percent) of millennials are provided with opportunities to contribute to charities/good causes in their workplaces. Those provided with such opportunities in the workplace, however, show a greater level of loyalty, have a more positive opinion of business behavior, and are less pessimistic about the general social situation.

    What does that mean for you as a leader in your office or as a small business owner? It means, you can help improve your company’s morale and get other professionals involved, encouraging a tighter knit, loyal and engaged group of colleagues and employees.

    “I found the bank could be used as a catalyst to improve the community as a whole, said Jeff Oody’s ICBA’s 2016 Community Banker of the Year. When the assistant police chief in Starke, Fla., asked bank employees for help raising $5,000 for underprivileged kids, the community banker pledged to spend Christmas Eve dressed as an elf, dispensing candy if the team could double their contributions. In the end, more than $10,248 was raised, allowing seven-dozen grateful children to purchase clothing and gifts last December. Overall staff participation in volunteer civic activities is up 100 percent at the bank and its fundraising efforts dwarf previous levels since Oody became president four years ago. 

    4. Grow as a Leader

    Not quite ready for that top leadership position at your company? Getting more involved in your community gives you access to volunteer leadership positions, where you can grow and prepare yourself for that next big career jump.

    “Serving on your homeowners’ association or PTA board, coaching a little league team, or joining a local Toastmaster’s can teach important lessons about conflict resolution, team building and strong communication, all of which can help you become a leader who helps others reach their full potential,” says ICBA’s chairman Rebeca Romero Rainey. The third-generation community banker serves as chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. and believes passionately in the potential of tomorrow’s leaders to transform lives and organizations. The bank offers college scholarships to local high school students and encourages staff attendance at leadership development conferences.

    It’s easy to see how community involvement and volunteering can provide valuable ways to grow your skill set and meet influencers in your area. Need some inspiration to get started? Consider the following:

    • Looking for a cause that’s important to you? Don’t be afraid to organize a group yourself. This is also a great way to grow those leadership skills firsthand!
    • Partner with other small business owners or local businesses and organize a fundraiser or event.
    • Write an op-ed about something important to you or your industry.
    • Get to know your local media and position yourself as a subject matter expert who can provide a unique perspective.
    • Volunteer your skills pro-bono. Local nonprofits will thank you!
    • Become a member or board member of a local charity. This is an excellent way to grow your skill set and meet other professionals in the community.
    • Coach or mentor young professionals just starting out or attending college.

    Looking for additional ways to get involved in your area? Look up your local community bank and see how they’re helping (and join in)! Already partnered with a community bank? Join our conversation on twitter and tell us how getting involved in your community has benefited you and helped you grow professionally and personally. Send us a short video @ICBA #ILoveMyCommunityBank or email Carissa.hampton@icba.org with a written or video testimonial.

     

     

    Making Sense of Views on Money

    Dec 20, 2016

    Ever heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? The same can be said for money. Because while money has a determined measure of value, its personal value to individuals is heavily influenced by deeply held beliefs.

    Where do these ideas come from, and how do they drive our financial decisions? According to the Psychology of Money feature in the latest Independent Banker magazine, these ideas are shaped during childhood and can impact our relationship with money throughout adulthood. 

    In the case of a deteriorating economy and rising unemployment, for instance, people instinctively hoard resources—increasing savings and cutting spending.

    For millennials, the imprint of those hardships during their formative years may leave a lasting impression that will leave some leery of incurring debt, opting for debit over credit cards for purchases, according to a Bankrate survey.

    Beliefs as Financial Drivers

    Community bankers can use these insights to better serve customers and help them with their financial goals. For example, knowing that at times of high money anxiety people tend to park funds in checking and savings accounts, despite the returns they can earn in long-term CDs, can help banks prepare for an influx of cash during a future recessionary cycle.

    In Davenport, Fla. CenterState Bank is experimenting with a goal-oriented savings account. Instead of paying ongoing interest, the account pays a bonus if the saver hits a certain goal, like saving for a home over a five-year period.

    Incentives works, but it’s a fine balance to walk, cautions Stephan Meier, an economics professor and former Federal Reserve economist.

    In one of Meier’s studies, a financial institution sent homeowners a legitimate offer to refinance that would enable them to save hundreds of dollars per month. Just half of the solicited consumers jumped at the deal because they didn’t trust the motives of the bank. And when the deal was sweetened with a gift card for those who refinanced, fewer still bit because they were suspicious.

    Overall, community banks have an advantage because they are more likely to be trusted. By using their arsenal of tools (such as education, incentives and support services) to help steer people away from flawed decisions towards better financial choices, community banks may be able to further raise their value in the eyes of their customers.

    The Top 4 Characteristics that Make Millennials Excellent Entrepreneurs

    Nov 10, 2016

    Although Millennials are sometimes plagued by negative professional traits and stereotypes, there are specific characteristics of young professionals that make them great candidates for small business ownership. In fact, entrepreneurship is particularly enticing to Millennials, who increasingly forgo more traditional career paths in favor of transforming new ideas and dreams into thriving small businesses and startups.

    So what exactly draws Millennials to small business ownership and helps them thrive among the challenges of entrepreneurship?

    Millennials Are Risk-Taking Optimists

    Young professionals are much more willing to take a risk on what may seem to be a lofty goal or dream. Not only are Millennials eager to take risks, they’re more optimistic that they’ll succeed. While other generations may plan endeavors around their education levels or years of professional experience, Millennials aren’t afraid to jump into the deep end of entrepreneurship and build their own business.

    What’s also interesting is the age in which different generations start their businesses. Baby boomers launched their small businesses at an average age of 35 while Millennials are starting their own businesses at the average age of 27 (according to 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report).

    They’re Extremely Tech Savvy

    While 20 and 30-something professionals are more fearless than their baby boomer predecessors when it comes to starting a small business, they’re aided by unprecedented tech savviness. While it is easier to start a small business than it may have been in the past, Millennials are taking advantage of their knowledge of technology and using it to build, market and grow efficient businesses at younger ages.

    Millennials are Not Afraid of a Little Debt

    Despite the financial caution of generations preceding Millennials, young professionals are not afraid of small business loans, credit card debt and crowdfunding as a means of financially powering their ideas and dreams. In addition, they’re increasingly reliant on mobile banking and technology to keep up with their busy, technology heavy lifestyles while looking to their communities for support.

    Millennial Local Business Endeavors Are Personal

    Young professionals are more interested in frequenting other small businesses and local establishments in contrast with nationwide chains. In the past ten years, farmer’s markets have more than doubled, while traditional (national) grocers have lost 15 percent. This paradigm shift has been driven in part by the purchasing habits of Millennials and cultural shifts. Although Gen X and Gen Y love supporting local businesses for feel good reasons, they also love the customized, personal service they receive on a local level.

    As supporters of local community banks, independent shops and restaurants, Millennials understand and are attracted to the unique comradery of small businesses and their role in serving the economic needs of the local community. This, in turn, drives their increasing interest in serving their neighborhoods on a local level as small business owners themselves.

    Get Involved!

    As the holiday season approaches, it’s more important than ever to support the local businesses that help make our communities great! Do you love supporting your local community by shopping, dining and banking locally? Make a quick video telling us why you love your community bank and send it to Carissa.hampton@icba.org or @ICBA on Twitter using the hashtag #ILoveMyCommunityBank.

    Keeping Cyber-Criminals at Bay in Today’s Connected World

    Oct 06, 2016

    Americans are more connected than ever. We’re more apt to notice a missing phone before a missing wallet. More inclined to send an instantaneous text or email than a letter. And increasingly likely to conduct financial transactions using a smart device from the comfort of our home. Could Alexander Graham Bell ever have imagined such a reality? Surely the creators of The Jetsons must have.

    But all that convenience comes at a price—one that has left consumers increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Reported fraud instances are up 25 percent this year even as new technology and enhanced security protocols like chip cards and multi-factor authentication are implemented to stave off emerging threats. So what’s a banker to do?  

    If you’re Peoples State Bank of Prairie du Chien, Wis.; Farmers & Merchants Bank of Berlin, Wis.; or New Tripoli Bank in Pennsylvania, you take part in a national movement to ensure that every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. All three banks:

    • have been recognized as National Cyber Security Awareness Month Champions by the National Cyber Security Alliance for helping promote a safer, more secure Internet;
    • outline their security practices to safeguard their customers personal and financial account information; and
    • provide links to industry resources to help consumers limit their exposure or report suspected fraudulent activity to law enforcement.

    People State Bank also provides periodic training for employees. And as part of its “knowledge is power” mantra, the community bank offers details on the latest security alerts for customers.

    Farmers & Merchants Bank has a similar “forewarned is forearmed” approach to data security, using its newsletter to remind customers of its information-collection policies and products geared to diminish the risk of debit fraud and help identify fraudulent checks. 

    Meanwhile, New Tripoli Bank uses its Web presence to outline the most common point of attack for its commercial clientele—business e-mail compromise—and how they can protect their businesses in the event of a compromised account. 

    With recent legislation and support from the White House, cybersecurity remains a popular topic of discussion, and rightfully so.  If each of us does our part—implementing stronger security practices and raising community awareness—everyone will benefit from a safer online world that even the Jetsons can envy.

    Weathering a Natural Disaster

    Sep 08, 2016

    All too often we are reminded of Mother Nature’s wrath. Whether it’s last month’sInvestarBankDriveThrough torrential flood waters pouring down on Louisiana or this summer’s wildfires blazing a trail through California, the fragility and power of our ecosystem is on full display.

    But as fires are doused, floodwaters recede, and the ground beneath us stabilizes, the fortitude of the human spirit emerges—determined to restore order and return a sense of normalcy.

    Offering a helping hand to pick up the pieces and move forward are the nation’s community bankers, who are at the ready with a hot meal, financial assistance, or loan modification to help their customers and neighbors in their time of need. It’s this sense of community and our more than 200 years of history that has forged a bond that no natural disaster can permanently tear asunder.

    “We had people visit us in the parking lot as well as had a drive-through available for those to get a hot meal and share their stories,” said John D’Angelo, president and CEO of Investar Bank in Baton Rouge, La. After opening its doors following the severe storms, bank volunteers lined up to serve 1,200 hot lunches and deliver meals and water to those in need.

    Because of their hometown roots, customers also rely on their community banks to establish and promote financial assistance drives, like former NFL player Todd McClure. The Baton Rouge native reached out to his community bank, Bank of Zachary, and two local non-profits to expand its GoFundMe drive under a 501(c) umbrella in support of flood victims in Zachary, La.

    That’s why ICBA Bancard’s subsidiary, TCM Bank, is supporting a Red Cross donation drive and has also pledged weather-related disaster assistance to its agent bank cardholders. For instance, the bank is offering to waive late fees, provide free payments over the phone, and work on behalf of its customers to document hardship requests.

    “We have had widespread flooding before, and we have had devastating floods before, but this is both widespread and devastating,” said Preston Kennedy, president and CEO of Bank of Zachary. “No doubt, federal assistance will be needed, but the vast majority of these people are doing everything within their own power to help themselves.”

    Providing a Helping Hand for Homeownership

    Jun 28, 2016

    June is a milestone month for many reasons. It’s the official start of summer, the end of the school year and the season in which many families begin the home-buying process.

    For many families, the path to homeownership starts with a call to a financial institution to take advantage of today’s low interest rates or new programs that offer easier and more affordable options. Community banks are a great resource to help these families determine the right time to buy a home and navigate the process.

    Community banks also specialize in non-traditional financing programs that can help families overcome challenges to homeownership and obtain their dream home. Community banks focus on building one-on-one relationships with their customers and can make loans to individuals that big banks won’t make. And because they live in the communities they serve, community bankers have a personal stake in helping their neighborhoods and hometowns flourish.

    All Together Now

    That was the case for Eddie Jean Smith, who long dreamed of being a homeowner. Last year, Habitat for Humanity partnered with nine banks in Jackson, Miss., to build a home for Eddie and her two children.

    These banks—including ICBA members Origin Bank, First Commercial Bank and BankFirst Financial Services— have supported Habitat for Humanity through the years by financing housing, sponsoring events and serving on boards and committees. But 2015 was the first time employees of all nine participating banks pitched in to build a home together.

    The collaboration has the “potential to be a catalyst for rebirth and transformation” of Greenview Drive—a once-thriving neighborhood in South Jackson, said Cindy Griffin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area.

    Ripple Effect—Leading the Charge

    Also last spring Citizens Bank in Kilgore, Texas, took the lead on a similar project on South Street to help a mother and her three young children on the path to homeownership. Thanks to a $5,000 donation (matched 3:1 by the regional Federal Home Loan Bank) and 900 volunteer hours by Citizens Bank employees and their spouses, the family will be in its new home this month.

    “Our partnership with Kilgore Habitat harnesses the power of financial capital with tremendous volunteer efforts to revitalize a local community,” said Laura Rebouche', virtual banking center and marketing manager at the bank.

    This collective dedication of a local community to empower families and individuals, help rebuild neighborhoods and strengthen local economies is at the heart of community banking. For example, at this year’s annual convention, ICBA Community Banking LIVE® in New Orleans, community bankers participated in a day of service to help rebuild homes that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

    Community bankers take great pride in strengthening their communities. Whether it’s walking customers through the home-buying process, providing funding or offering a helping hand to a local charity, community bankers work hard to help their customers realize the dream of homeownership—one home, one community at a time. To find a community bank near you, visit www.banklocally.org. To learn more about community banks and services they offer, visit www.icba.org.

    Facebook and Custom Bobble Head Show Community Spirit Every Day

    Apr 28, 2016

    No one at First Bank Financial Centre is more active in philanthropy and community building than its president and CEO, Mark Mohr.

    Named ICBA 2015 Community Banker of the Year, “Mark has created an environment where community involvement and volunteerism is encouraged and supported,” said Jeff McCarthy, First Bank Financial Centre’s vice president and marketing director. “He leads by example and because of our culture hundreds of organizations and individuals are impacted positively each year in the communities we serve in southeastern Wisconsin.”

    In fact, eighty percent of First Bank Financial Centre’s employees, including all management, have been involved in some kind of volunteer work over the past two years contributing an incredible 10,000 volunteer hours to approximately 400 organizations.

    So when the bank relaunched its Facebook page, they decided to highlight the CEO’s volunteer efforts – and show that FBFC is a fun and personable community bank. Heather Koltermann, senior marketing representative, noted, “We wanted something to create buzz and increase engagement with our customers and employees on social media.” Now whenever Mohr’s volunteer efforts take him out of the office you can find him (or his bobble head) by following the bank’s Facebook page.

    JohnRoeblingBridge
    At the John Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio

    At the Wild Horses Monument
    (also known as “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies”)
    in Central Washington
     

    Clinton Savings Bank Helps High School Sophomores Get a Reality Check

    Apr 27, 2016

    The Clinton Savings Bank partnered with the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley, Mass. and the local high school for a fun, interactive Reality Fair about financial management as part of its Community Banking Month activities. It’s an annual event for 10th grade students.

    After researching a career and related salary, the students received a monthly paystub, complete with taxes and student loans. The students then had to use their net earnings to purchase housing, utilities, insurance, transportation, food, clothing and other personal items. They also had to deal with 401K contributions, entertainment and recreation temptations, and a spin on the Wheel of Fortune, which represented life’s unexpected windfalls and financial fortunes or misfortunes.

    Nearly 60 volunteers from local businesses, the community, and various Rotary Clubs participated.

    “This is our fourth year of sponsoring the Reality Fair, and I am delighted this event is now a tradition at the high school, said Rotary Club president, Jim Stone. “I really appreciate our partnership with the high school and Clinton Savings Bank to make this life-changing program a success.”

    WildHorsesMonument

    Nashoba Regional High School Sophomores pick up their paychecks and open Savings and Checking accounts before purchasing housing, transportation, and other necessities at the fourth annual Reality Fair, organized by the Rotary Club of Nashoba Valley with support from Clinton Savings Bank.


    Theme-Filled Event Permeates Community Banking Month Celebration

    Apr 26, 2016

    Community Banking Month is a highly anticipated and special month for Bank of the West employees. Each week in April the staff select a fun-filled theme for the week for each branch with many of the bank’s employees spending personal time to make decorations and costumes. On Monday morning before the bank opens the staff decorates their lobby with that week’s theme, concluding with celebratory refreshments and a weekly drawing on Friday for the bank’s visitors and customers. Many customers return for Friday’s finale with their young children. “Not only is it fun, it is a great opportunity for us to meet our youngest potential customers — and promote financial literacy to the next generation,” says Christy Bair LaZear, senior vice president & cashier at the Grapevine, Texas-based bank.

    “We are always excited to show our appreciation for our customers and to celebrate how proud we are to be a community bank,” says LaZear. “It’s a wonderful experience for everyone — customers and members of our bank family — to celebrate being part of our community.”

    To follow the ICBA Community Banking Month conversation on social media, follow the #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter.

    CommBkgMonth2 CommBkgMonth3

    BAC Community Bank Uses Newsletter as Story Vehicle

    Apr 22, 2016

    BAC Community Bank put a fresh spin on its traditional newsletter as part of a special outreach in honor of ICBA Community Banking Month. The Stockton, Calif.- based bank used the special communication to highlight its role as a job creator and supporter within its community.

    In a recent newsletter to customers, BAC Community Bank revealed that it employs 115 individuals, supports 91 families, and provides a full slate of benefits to 174 people. The bank also noted that its employees contributed over 350 hours towards non-profit activities and that the bank made contributions of $134,850 to 155 organizations in 2015.

    In that same communication, the bank also shared its long-standing ties with Visionary Home Builders (VHB), a prominent leader in the development and renovation of affordable housing in California’s Central Valley region. Thirty-three years ago the bank helped fund a project to improve living conditions for workers residing in public housing. Today, in addition to providing seed financing for many of VHB’s projects, the bank also provides a line of credit to help the organization with a project for veteran and family housing in the downtown Stockton area.

    Royal Bank: I Heart My Community Bank Because

    Apr 21, 2016

    ICBA Community Banking Month provided an opportunity for Elroy, Wis.-based Royal Bank to showcase its community involvement. Highlights from its month-long celebration included:

    • “I heart My Community Bank Because…” signs,
    • Reality Daz events promoting financial literacy; and
    • Cash Mob events in its Dickeyville and Adams locations.

    The bank also leveraged social media to engage with customers.

    CampDouglasHeidisDog
    Dickeyville2

    Unity Bank Ads Inject Humor with Celebrity Cameo

    Apr 20, 2016
    Unity Bank uses humor to make a case for consumers’ banking business with a short video featuring actor Gary Busey. The Hollywood celebrity, known as much for off-screen hijinks as his on-screen performances, impersonates bank president Jim Hughes and is ultimately shown the door so the banker can get down to business doing what’s best for his customers.

    First Green Bank –A Year in the Life of a Regenerative Bank

    Apr 19, 2016

    Orlando, Fla.-based First Green Bank is a community bank on a global mission—to support environmentally sustainable businesses. In support of its value-based mission, the bank embarked on a “Year in the Life of a Regenerative Bank,” project to chronicle its efforts to construct a living building with minimal impact on the environment. The bank also provides special interest rates for commercial and residential projects that qualify for LEED certification and offers a Solar Loan program, which encourages customers and employees to install solar panel systems for energy use.

    The bank also runs the non-profit First Green Foundation, which supports local start-up farming projects as well as projects that better manage water resources.

    “Favorite Bank” Touts Community Involvement

    Apr 15, 2016

    For the 14th consecutive year, The Murray Bank has been named “Favorite Bank in Calloway County,” an honor reflective of the bank’s long-standing ties to the community, according to bank president and CEO, Bob Hargrove. A new video showcases this involvement and is one several communications being promoted via social media in celebration of ICBA Community Banking Month. The bank is also using its Facebook page to introduce members of its staff through short Q&As, promote its local chamber of commerce with a lunch and learn, and advertise its sponsorship of the Murray Half Marathon this weekend.

    The bank also has several ongoing campaigns in support of local-area youth including its “Student of the Week” spotlight and its “spirit debit card” program, from which a portion of the generated fee income is used to support its two local high schools. In January, bank presented each school with a $10,000 check, bringing its total donations under the program to over $38,000 per school.

    Follow the bank on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheMurrayBank or on twitter @TheMurrayBank. To follow the ICBA Community Banking Month conversation on social media, follow the #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter.

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