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    Community Banks Contribute to Individual Career and Life Success

    WendyRoss-01(Editor’s Note: We know that many of you, like us, are working longer hours, spending more time in traffic, and doing all that you can to make ends meet. Selecting the right bank for your hard-earned money is no small matter, especially given lasting concerns following the financial crisis of 2007–2009, which many economists have said was the worst financial crisis our country has suffered since the Great Depression of the 1930s. “Wall Street” has become a catch phrase for the wealthy few who were too big to fail. Countering such problems is the Bank of San Francisco, which raised its initial capital from employees who invested under the same terms and conditions as the general public—something that is basically unheard of in the world of banking.

    Vice Chair of the Board is Roberta Achtenberg, who co-founded the National Center for Lesbian Rights and was the first openly LGBT public official in the U.S. whose appointment to a federal position was confirmed by our nation’s Senate. She was the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Director Kelly McCown is also an out and proud member of our community who works in the difficult field of immigration law and is a volunteer attorney with the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. She is additionally a mentor attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Asylum Program.

    The Executive Team at Bank of San Francisco is known not only for their banking experience, but also for their integrity and commitment to civil rights. Education is a key part of this community bank’s outreach. In this series, you will learn how to better manage your money, avoid becoming a victim of fraud, strengthen small businesses, plan for home ownership and more. Your teacher couldn’t be better. Wendy Ross, the President of the Bank of San Francisco, has over 35 years of international, commercial and private banking experience. Prior to joining the founding team of the Bank of San Francisco in 2005, Ross was Senior Vice President/Chief Credit Officer at Golden Gate Bank. To learn more about Ross, her team, and the Bank of San Francisco, please visit: https://www.bankofsf.com/index.htm)

    Whether you are saving for your wedding, launching a new business or buying your first home, there is always a bank somewhere in the background. Choosing the right bank, and the right banker, can be the key to making good things happen in both your personal and professional life.

    We sometimes think of banks as a necessary evil, “those guys who make me stand in line for my own money.” If you’re like many people, however, the way you picked your bank was less than scientific. Just over 52 percent of people choose a bank based on a convenient branch location or a handy ATM, notes a survey completed last year by compete.com, a business intelligence service.

    To select the bank you deserve— whether for your personal needs, business needs or both—it pays to do your homework. Begin by asking yourself several questions:

    What are your everyday banking needs? On the business side, these might include depositing checks from the convenience of your office, or having your questions answered quickly by a real person. On the personal side, these might include the ability to make automated bill payments or transfer money seamlessly to your kids in college.

    What are your other periodic banking needs? Businesses might need a loan to cover equipment purchases or to finance growth or accounts receivable. Individuals might need a mortgage to buy a single-family home or TIC.

    What banking services do you anticipate needing in the future? Financing to expand office space might be a business need, while families may require a home equity line of credit for short-term personal expenses.

    What is your “wish list” for a banking relationship? You might be tech savvy and want to handle as much of your banking as possible via online and mobile banking, or perhaps you would be more comfortable working with a single banker as the “go to” person who understands your needs and financial history.

    A constructive next step would be to research banks and compare their offerings, levels of service and fee structures. If, for example, your business writes a lot of checks, you might look for a bank that offers technology to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. If you plan on buying a TIC, but the bank you’re looking at doesn’t offer TIC loans, you might think of banking elsewhere.

    If you do your homework, you may determine that a community bank is the best alternative for you. A few of the positive qualities community banks possess include:

    Service- Community banks tend to be very responsive to clients’ requests and often make decisions locally with input from a personal banker, as compared to larger banks that rely on automation and impersonal call centers.

    Fees- Fees vary widely among different types of banks. Many community banks offer flexible fee structures, which avoid the “nickel and diming” so many people dislike.

    Technology- Larger banks often offer a “lowest common denominator” approach to technology features, providing only the basics that they estimate a majority of their customers will need. Community banks, on the other hand, understand how clients use technology to address their banking needs, and have the capacity and inclination to tailor technology accordingly.

    Credit Approach- While regional and larger banks make mortgage and loan decisions strictly by the numbers, community banks are able to weigh the client’s history with the bank and other qualitative factors.

    Intangibles- Every bank has a “personality,” a style for doing business and communicating with clients. Community banks are often much more focused on providing a high

    touch, personalized experience than are regional or national banks.

    Whether you’re an individual looking for better service, a nonprofit that needs to grow or a business owner eager to expand, your bank can be a valuable partner in achieving your goals. It’s worth the time to research and select the bank that’s right for you—the bank you deserve.

    Wendy Ross is the President of Bank of San Francisco. She has more than 35 years of international, commercial, and private banking experience. Ross is a 2002 graduate of Leadership San Francisco and is a board member for numerous Bay Area organizations.