Worried About Data Breaches? Protect Yourself with these Tips

Recent data breaches have many of us worried that our most sensitive personal and financial information is at risk—with good reason.

For our part, OSB is continually working to ensure that your data remains secure. One way we are doing this is with the introduction of our new Community Checking Account options. Both our Advantage Checking and Advantage Plus Checking accounts feature IDProtect® which includes comprehensive identity theft monitoring and resolution services as well as other features to help you keep your identity safe. You can review these account options here.

Our Online Banking system is also designed to protect you from data theft. It has many safeguards to secure your account information including authentication, SSL, exclusive encryption software, high-end firewalls, and automatic sign-off. For additional details please review the security information on our website.

If you are not utilizing IDProtect® through our Advantage or Advantage Plus checking accounts, here are some other tips you can use to help keep your sensitive information safe:

  1. Monitor your accounts regularly. Keeping an eye on your bank and other financial accounts is part of being fiscally responsible and allows you to take prompt action if unauthorized activity does occur.
  2. Report suspicious account activity immediately. If you believe that your OSB Online Banking access ID or passcode has been compromised, or if an unauthorized transaction has occurred, let us know within two business days to mitigate your financial exposure. If you think that your credit information has been stolen, contact one of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) and the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  3. Set up automatic fraud alerts. In addition to self-monitoring your bank and credit accounts, set up automatic fraud alerts using tools offered by financial services providers like OSB. The three major credit reporting agencies listed above all offer free fraud notifications, too.
  4. Consider a credit freeze if you are concerned. If you believe you have been impacted by a data breach, you may want to contact each of the credit reporting agencies to ask for a lock on your credit files to stop any new credit information releases until you can determine if your information was actually stolen.
  5. Check your credit report. Each year, you are entitled to one free credit report from all three major reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Requesting these reports should be a regular practice to proactively monitor the security of your information.

Unfortunately, data breaches are becoming more commonplace in our digital world. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take every measure you can to protect yourself from identity and data thieves. Choosing one of our Community Checking Accounts with IDProtect® services is a great first step as is implementing the tips above. If you have any questions about our Advantage Checking or Advantage Plus Checking accounts and the protection they provide or OSB’s commitment to your security please contact us.

Advertisements

Seeking Success? Start by Finding Your Sweet Spot

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

While everyone has a different definition of success, striving for it is a driving force for many of us. Setting and achieving goals, working to bring a vision to life and making progress in our personal and professional lives are all examples of the kinds of success we seek.

Success can seem elusive as we find ourselves facing challenging circumstances and setbacks. This can be frustrating, especially when you are looking to make a career move or reach a personal goal. While there are rarely many shortcuts to finding success, finding your sweet spot can help make it considerably easier.

Your sweet spot defined. What do we mean by “sweet spot”? It’s the intersection of the things that you are good at (usually these things come relatively easy to you) and the actions that will help you achieve your particular goal. Finding your sweet spot allows you to operate with efficiency, strength and, usually, positive results. So how do you find that special place in your heart and mind that can accelerate you on the path to achieving what you want? It’s not as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these four steps:

Visualize and write down what you want to achieve. As legendary author and inspirational speaker Stephen Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.” Many of us want to achieve goals related to fitness, finances and family, but we keep our goals in our heads and in very general terms. Covey’s advice is to envision in your mind and articulate on paper (or your electronic device) in very specific detail, exactly what you want and the steps you need to take toward getting it. While this may seem simple, it is a very powerful principle, too.

Identify your inner strengths. Once you have a specific vision and goal in your mind and in written form, you need to leverage your core competencies—the strengths that make you unique and can help you achieve your goal. Make a list of the unique talents you have that you can use to help move you in the right direction. For example, maybe you want to increase your success in your professional life by finding a different job opportunity. Without knowing what your aptitudes are and looking only superficially at the kind of position you want, rather than what will use your best skills and personal characteristics, it is unlikely that you will be successful in finding a role where you can reach your full potential  and be truly satisfied.

Listen to your family, friends and fans. While you can’t let others determine your definition of success, don’t discount what people tell you about your strengths. If the praise you receive is sincere, it can help point you in the direction of your sweet spot. Consider writing down the actions that you have been recognized for doing exceptionally well and your positive characteristics that people often comment on, then look to find common themes. These will likely be indicative of what internal strengths will help you achieve your goal with relative ease.

Put it all together. Now that you have a clear goal and a clear idea of the strengths and internal resources you have to achieve it, it’s time to use your sweet spot to activate your success. Make a plan with specific action items of what you need to do to achieve your goals and then match them up with your greatest aptitudes that will allow you successfully complete them.

Final thoughts…Nothing is more rewarding than setting a goal and actually achieving it, but sometimes we stand in our own way by not doing the work required to know where our sweet spot lies in terms of being successful. Spending just an hour or two to envision what you want and tap into the internal power you have to achieve it can make your journey on the path to success easier—and your accomplishments that much sweeter.

Simple Steps You Can Take for a Smoother Mortgage Experience

Mortgage season is definitely here, with the real estate market in full swing and interest rates poised to rise, making it the perfect time to refinance an existing loan. To help you make optimal decisions about your mortgage options, we’re featuring  this “Closing Thoughts” guest post from OSB’s Mortgage Lender, Kacie Eberenz (NMLS# 1458409).

If you think that applying for a mortgage loan is right up there with getting a root canal—you’re not alone. Many home buyers, and homeowners looking to refinance, find the mortgage application process frustrating—or even painful. At OSB, we strive to make your mortgage experience as simple as possible (see the infographic below for a complete picture of our mortgage process). In addition, taking the steps below can make your mortgage experience even smoother:

Step 1: Choose the right lender. If you’re not working with the right lender, securing a mortgage loan can be a painful process. It’s important to be comfortable with your lender. For example, if you want to have someone to guide you through the process and be able to answer your questions in a timely manner, an online mortgage option is probably not for you.

At OSB, we work to streamline your mortgage application and make getting a mortgage as easy as possible with personalized service to help you feel as comfortable and confident as possible.

Step 2: Provide your financial information promptly. Buying or refinancing your home requires that you provide significant amounts of financial and personal information to your lender. From bank statements to pay stubs your lender should let you know exactly what they need from you in order to process your mortgage application. To avoid delays, make sure you provide the specific items requested in a timely manner.

Step 3: Tackle your taxes. You will need to provide current tax returns as part of the mortgage application process and you must have your taxes filed for the past two years. If you have any delinquent tax payments or unfiled taxes, you’ll need to ensure that they are taken care of so the processing of your mortgage application can proceed.

Step 4: Manage your account balances and credit. Your bank balances and credit score will be evaluated by your lender as part of the mortgage loan decision so it is wise to make sure they are in good order.

Tip: When it comes to your bank account, it’s best not to make large deposits during your loan application, as it may affect your loan decision. In addition, avoid taking on any new debt during the loan process (e.g. Hold off on buying new furniture and appliances until after your mortgage closes.), since all of your debt will influence your debt-to-loan ratio which is a critical aspect of any mortgage loan application.

Let OSB help you smooth out the mortgage application process. Applying for a mortgage shouldn’t be a burden. OSB is dedicated to making your loan process simple and streamlined—and these tips can help you take the right steps to make your mortgage experience even smoother! Need help with a mortgage loan? Contact me at 517.592.1058 and we’ll get started!

mortgage path to the american dream

 

 

 

OSB’s SBA Financing Helps Small Businesses Adjust to Market Changes

Michelle Brasseur, an OSB Community Bank Senior Commercial Lender, tells how the flexibility of  SBA loans can provide financing relief to small businesses.

“There are so many fantastic advantages for businesses who access SBA financing solutions through a local community bank. Early in my lending career SBA was the primary loan product that I worked with, but for the past 18 years I would say that SBA, and specifically SBA 7A, is one of the loan products that I would consider when structuring loans for clients.

This year I discovered an amazing servicing opportunity that was truly a lifesaver for one of our clients at OSB Community Bank. As a family owned business in an industry that has been experiencing declining sales and margins, this client was facing financial challenges. The stress of these conditions was showing on the client’s income statement and balance sheet. When our client requested additional financing, we had to explain that what they really needed to do was reduce expenses to align with the reduction in their current and projected sales. We encouraged them to work with their accountant to see what expenses they could reduce.

Soon after, the client came back to me with solutions to significantly reduce their expenses, showing their commitment to making the changes necessary for their survival. As a result, the bank felt comfortable looking at what financing options we could offer to them. After doing some research, I discovered that you can extend the maturity of any SBA loan up to 10 years. Doing this allowed us to provide payment relief to our client, whose business continues to do well today.”

Reinvesting in Our Community, One Organization at a Time

OSB’s President & CEO, Rick Northrup shares what’s at the heart of OSB’s passion for helping small businesses grow.

As a community bank, OSB understands what makes our neighborhoods, villages, and towns unique. We focus on lending to the small businesses and organizations that make us who we are.

A recent example illustrates this:

A charter school in our community was looking to grow and move into a new facility.  The school had been operating in a rental building and the administration wanted to own a building in order to control the school’s future and growth. Although the school and staff had been in operation locally for many years, the only financing available to them was from large, out-of-town financial institutions, which was expensive with very disadvantageous terms. The school could not afford this type of financing without inhibiting its growth. In fact, the school would have had serious financial struggles under the terms, placing its long-term success in jeopardy.

At OSB, we looked at the situation and found that the school’s students had very high academic results; the school’s staffing was strong and experienced; and the school also had committed parents. The building that the charter school wanted to purchase was an old elementary school, which would allow the school to double in size. At the time, the school was serving over 140 students, representing over 100 local families. The school and its plans made sense to us.

The team at OSB got to work, examining the school’s track record, business plan, staff, and education philosophy.  We also investigated the school’s collateral, learning about the potential for reestablishing a school there for the long-term, and understanding its value. When all was said and done, OSB offered a package of term loans and line of credit financing that allowed the school to meet its goals, without placing its financial future in jeopardy.

Since purchasing the building, the charter school has grown and is on track to double its size, as planned.  For the current academic year the school is serving over 200 students and 150 families. Soon the school expects to serve 300 students.

This is how OSB Community Bank reinvests in our community, making things better for all of us who share this little corner of the world—one organization at a time.

OSB’s Flexible Financing Creates Opportunity for Small Businesses

Ted Schork, Vice President, Commercial Banking at OSB shares how our community banking philosophy has helped one local business succeed.

“A key benefit of community banking for small businesses is our willingness and ability to be flexible in the financing solutions we offer. I was recently reminded of this when OSB had the opportunity to serve one of our long-term, residential mortgage clients who also operates a small, family-owned business which has been part of our community for more than twenty years.

The business is co-owned by a father and his son and daughter-in-law. It provides excavating, logging and trucking services. Earlier this year, one of the company’s main customers indicated that two of its other subcontractors would no longer be providing trucking services due to their retirement. This customer needed to find another subcontractor to take on the additional work and contracts. They offered this opportunity to our client.

To be able to capitalize on this opportunity, the client needed to purchase another semi-truck, a trailer and logging equipment for their business. They approached our commercial lending team with their financing needs and the desire to keep as much of their current cash position as possible for working capital. Typically, a loan requires using a good portion of cash as equity or a down payment. Instead, OSB worked with this client to utilize the equity in their other vehicles and equipment to structure a loan that met their needs.

Creativity and flexibility in OSB’s approach to commercial lending helped to create a “win-win” situation and the ability to honor our commitment of serving our clients for the long haul.”

SBA Loans Provide Alternative Funding Options to Fuel Local Business Growth

Matthew J. Chrome, Senior Vice President, Chief Credit Officer, at OSB shares how SBA loans can help local small businesses grow, as we recognize National Small Business Week.

Over the course of my 20-plus years in banking, I have found that when working with small businesses, it is often necessary to look beyond conventional commercial loans in order to help fund their growth. The government’s Small Business Administration loans are often an ideal option that a community bank like OSB can access for its small business customers.

I recall two particularly poignant examples of using SBA loans to fund small business clients—one at the beginning of my career and one not too long ago.

In the first example, I learned about the power of SBA loans as I worked with a more senior lender who was trying to structure a loan for a minority-owned, fledgling business to buy or build a new building for their headquarters.  The business had some warts in its financial statements, including friendly debt and stagnant lines of credit. These are things that are commonly found with small, growing businesses. By looking outside of traditional lending options, this commercial lender found opportunity in the SBA 504 program.

The bank took on 90 percent of the construction loan to build the new headquarters, and the Economic Development Corporation took on 40 percent of the end loan exposure, leaving the bank with a 50 percent advance on the end loan. This alternative funding option gave a small, cash-strapped (but growing) business the money it needed to build a new headquarters—and the company is still performing well, 21 years later.

More recently, I was able to structure a series of SBA loans to support a prominent, growing restaurant business that wanted to expand further. The business has a track record of sufficient cash flow and is a consistent supporter of the community, but it does not have the collateral needed to support a conventional commercial loan with the bank.  Their significant shortage of collateral would normally stop the commercial loan process, but the SBA 7A loan program provided a government guarantee to the bank, in case of loan default, encouraging the bank to make the loan.

For small, growing businesses, having access to capital can make all the difference when it comes to achieving the next level of success. However, many businesses may have sufficient cash flow, but not enough collateral to qualify for traditional commercial loans. Or, they may have had some debt issues or some past financial misfortune that puts a blemish on their financial records. This can leave them limited in their ability to move ahead—unless they work with a lender who can offer some non-traditional financing options, like SBA loans.