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Hometown Bank

The Power of Your Hometown Bank  

by Joe LibalVice President Lending

“High-yield savings accounts,” “high-yield free checking accounts,” “lower fixed loan rates,” “quick credit approvals,” “five-minute account opening,” “transfer your money from your local bank and we will pay you for your deposit.” These are the deals and incentives for switching to an online-only or a fancy fintech institution.  Sounds great, but what kind of bank can pay you money just to transfer money over to them or get to know you in five minutes? To be candid, these banks want your money, your automatic deposits, your financial business, but really have no interest in you as a person or business owner. They just want another number in their ledgers.

I have been in banking for eight years.   I was once enticed to try out one of these incentives. It was great that I could open my account in just minutes and even get free money.  I could also get a “free” loan with no collateral required. The newness, quick processing, and warm fuzzy feeling did not last very long. After being locked out of my online account for over three weeks, I was over the convenience. For some reason, my thumbprint identifier went away, and I was left trying to login with a password long forgotten. After calling and emailing multiple times, they could verify who I was but didn’t believe who I was! They would send me an email that would give me a new password, but it would not make it to my email account. They said they had their technology team working on it, but I never received any updates. Finally, three weeks in it worked. Nobody could tell me why it worked or what changed. I went from being a distressed customer to a disgruntled customer. They seemed happy that my problem was fixed, and I was officially just another number in their ledgers. No follow up calls, emails, or notifications to see if things were still working right. This disconnect left me feeling lost and like nobody cared or knew much about me in their financial world.

I started this column in March and left it on the back burner as my day-to-day job as a loan officer got shuffled.  The pandemic resulted in me working with SBA, EIDL, PPP, CFAP, WHIP, and NE Stabilization grants, and more. Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve learned as a result:

  1. If you do not know any of the acronyms above and your farm or business was affected by COVID, reach out to a local banker.  If they do not know what these programs are, how they could help you or your business, find a new bank.  I’ve thought back to my experience with the online bank.  I’ve read stories of some banks not offering some of these programs or only working with existing customers.  I think it could happen in an online world.  I’m proud to be part of a team that has worked hard to do everything we can to help our customers and local businesses navigate through the pandemic.

  2. Know at least one person at your bank.  Have a connection with someone you can ask about these programs,  or who can refer you to someone who knows. Have a weird fee on your account? Ask the employee you know why it happened and how it can be fixed or avoided in the future. What if you have a charge you didn’t incur?  Now you have someone to reach out to and who will get to the bottom of it.  Get denied on a loan request?  Your contact can give you a real answer and how to correct the problem so you can get financing in the future. 

    Community banks invest in the community and in resources like myself.   We are the people you need to get to know.  We are here to help you navigate your financial road map, explore options, and use as a sounding board.  It’s what I enjoy most about my job!   I care about customers and look forward to finding ways to help make them successful.  At the end of the day, this is what your community bank does because if you are successful, we are successful!  

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