Blackhawk Bank Blog

The advice you need for the life you want!

WILL YOU ‘PLAY’ OR ‘PAY?’

Posted by blackhawkbank on October 7, 2012

The employer mandate that is part of the Health Care Reform Act is something every employer will need to evaluate during 2013.  I recently wrote an article for “The Voice” a publication of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce on the topic and have gotten a lot of feedback from folks that the article has value.  You can follow this link to view:  http://www.rockfordchamber.com/resources/this_month’s_issue_of_the_voice.aspx

I hope the article helps you gain insight on the employer mandate.

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

WHY DO WE CELEBRATE LABOR DAY?

Posted by blackhawkbank on August 30, 2012

Like many people, I think of Labor Day as the last holiday of summer, the beginning of fall, and the last day some fashion gurus say I should wear white.  Sometime along the way,  I’ve diminished its importance as a day that pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.  In case you are no longer smarter than a fifth grader (and few of us over the age of 20 are!), let’s take a moment to remember the history of this day.

  • Oregon was the first to make Labor Day a holiday in 1887.  Thirty states were celebrating Labor Day before it became a federal holiday.
  • It became a federal holiday under President Grover Cleveland in 1894 as a gesture of reconciliation with labor movement leaders following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshalls during the Pullman Strike.  Congress passed the legislation unanimously and signed the holiday into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.
  • The first proposal of the holiday outlined the appropriate form of celebration:  a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor unions,” followed by a festival for workers and their families.
  • Today, the holiday is primarily celebrated with family and friends with picnics, barbecues, fireworks, water sports and public art events. 

Blackhawk Bank extends its gratitude and admiration to all American workers both today and those who came before.  Happy Labor Day!

 

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Supreme Court Decision on Health Care Reform

Posted by blackhawkbank on June 28, 2012

The decision we have been waiting for from the Supreme Court on Health Care Reform and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has arrived.  The decisions from today will have widespread impact and implications. The holdings are as follows:

1) Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional in its entirety, including the individual mandate.

2) The individual mandate is constitutional under Congress’ power to impose a tax.

3) Because the individual mandates survives under the law, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for Medicaid eligibility requirements.

4) The court held that the Medicaid requirement for states to comply with the eligibility requirements or risk loss of funding is constitutional as long as states only lose new funds rather than all funding.

The ramifications of this decision remain to be seen.  No doubt it will impact our lives as individuals and employers.  It will become central to our media for the next days and weeks as well as play out in our upcoming political elections.

The best advice I can offer today is to take a breath and listen intently to the discussions.  If someone is telling you they have all the answers about the impact of this law today – be skeptical.   This is a big law and there are lots of decisions yet to be made.   Your insurance carrier or benefits consultant may be your best resource for understanding the impact to you and your organization.

There is much to do at all levels to improve health care for our nation – as consumers, as health care providers, and as payers — and their is no magic bullet.   Only by working together can we even hope to make a change.

 

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

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Congratulations Graduates!!

Posted by blackhawkbank on May 24, 2012

As students graduate from high schools, colleges and universities across the country and begin to plant the seeds for their financial future, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Blackhawk Bank offer tips to help graduates manage finances in the “real world.”

 “Graduation is an exciting time for students who are often anxious to gain financial independence,” said Terry Jorde, ICBA senior executive vice president and chief of staff.  “It’s important to remember that the financial decisions you make now will affect your future for years to come, so take a moment to outline your short- and long-term financial goals and come up with a monthly budget that will work for you.  Believe me, this is one simple exercise that will be well worth any recent grad’s time.  You’ll thank yourself a few months and a few years down the line.

 Jorde suggested that students who don’t already have their own individual bank accounts (not cosigned by mom and dad) open one immediately.  “Look to a community banker who can work with you one-on-one to make a financial plan that suits your individual needs,” said Jorde.   

 “Blackhawk Bank specializes in providing trusted advice and guidance to young adults,” said Jan Barth-Huff, VP Marketing at Blackhawk.   “This stage of a grad’s life is all about empowerment—and financial matters are no different. We congratulate this year’s grads and wish them a prosperous financial future.  We’re here to serve them in whatever way we can!” 

 Banking Centers are located in Beloit, Roscoe, Machesney Park, Rockford, Belvidere and Capron.  Visit the ‘Locations’ page @ Blackhawkbank.com for addresses and hours.

 Other tips from Blackhawk Bank include:

-         If you don’t have strong financial literacy skills, take some time to educate yourself on money matters, such as credit and ways to save for retirement.  There is an abundance of resources available from programs such as FDIC Money Smart

-         Understand credit, how to build it and what hurts it.

-         Set up online banking to help you manage your finances from anywhere. 

-         Start saving for retirement now even if it does seem like a long way away. Many employers offer investment matching plans to help you get started.

-         Set up an automatic savings account that pulls from your account every month as soon as you get your paycheck.  Some employers also allow you to defer savings to another account.  If you don’t see it, chances are you won’t miss it so much.  Having a safety net in your savings account will help you stress less.  

-         Stay on top of any student loans, don’t miss deadlines and consolidate if appropriate. Some companies will help you pay off your student debt; make sure to ask about this when negotiating your new job.

-         Review your banking, credit card and loan statements regularly so you can be aware of any errors.

-         If you move, notify your bank, card and loan issuers immediately.

-         If closing a bank account, confirm that the account and appropriate lines of credit have been closed by verifying with the bank. 

-         Take advantage of working with financial planners at your bank who can help you create your financial roadmap and a smart monthly budget for this stage in your life. 

CONGRATULATIONS GRADUATES!

 

Jan Barth-Huff, Vice President Marketing

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Community Banks Are ‘Financial First Responders’ for Local Small Businesses

Posted by blackhawkbank on April 6, 2012

As the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Blackhawk Bank recognize April asCommunity Banking Month, we want to remind everyone about the critical role community banks serve in supporting local small businesses.  Community banks are able to serve as financial first responders to small businesses because we operate locally, which puts local deposits back to work in the community through loans to local residents and small businesses. 

“Small business lending has always been the bread and butter of community banking, and because community banks are small businesses themselves that operate in the same community as their small business customers, they understand the needs of small businesses and the challenges they face better than anyone else in the marketplace,” said Jeff Gerhart, ICBA chairman and chairman of Bank of Newman Grove, Neb.  “Plus, community banks are able to take on an even bigger role as local job creators by fueling so many of the small businesses within their community—driving economic growth and prosperity on Main Street.”

Gerhart went on to say that because many community banks have been around for more than a hundred years (Blackhawk Bank has served the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin region for over 130 years) they’ve played a pivotal role in helping to establish and grow their local economies.

For their size, community banks are prolific small business lenders—providing a substantial number of small business loans across the country, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.  In fact, community banks under $10 billion in assets provide nearly 60 percent of small business loans between $100,000 and $1 million. By driving local economies and creating local jobs, community banks are an integral part of our nation’s financial system. Representing more than 24,000 locations nationwide and employing nearly 300,000 Americans, ICBA members hold more than $1.2 trillion in assets, $1 trillion in deposits, and nearly $750 billion in loans to consumers, small businesses and the agricultural community.

“We encourage local small businesses to go local with a community bank if they haven’t already,” said Rick Bastian President & CEO of Blackhawk Bank.  “I have no doubt that they’ll be satisfied with the superior customer service, market knowledge and common-sense products that come with banking locally at a community bank.  Here at Blackhawk, we have MANY business clients that switched to us because when times got tough, they quickly learned that their ‘big bank’ didn’t have their back.”

If you’d like to follow the conversation on Community Banking Month, follow the hashtag #golocal on Twitter.  To learn more about community banks, please click on the following links or visit www.icba.org

 

Jan Barth-Huff, Vice President Marketing

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

A GREAT BIG THANKS TO MY DEBIT CARD!

Posted by blackhawkbank on February 22, 2012

I’m sure you saw in the news the firestorm that was created when one of the large banks began charging – and later stopped charging – $5 / month for the privilege of using a debit card.  (Don’t worry, we aren’t getting ready to do that.)  This action got me thinking how much I’ve come to depend on my debit card and how I owe it a few words of thanks. 

Dear Debit Card:

THANK YOU SO MUCH!  I can’t begin to tell you how much you have simplified my life!  As long as I have you:

  • I no longer have to dig in the dark depths of my purse for the identification I needed when writing a check.
  • I no longer have to apologize for working in a bank, but never having any cash.
  • I can stop for coffee without worrying if I have the cash to pay for it.
  • I can get cash at the grocery while doing my weekly shopping.
  • I can do things at the last minute without having to stop by a bank or ATM on my way to an event.
  • I can treat for lunch unexpectedly.
  • I am never concerned that a need for money will catch me off guard.

 With all that you do for me, I would gladly pay $5/month for the privilege of having you – but I’m glad I don’t have to! 

 PS:  Don’t let my electronic statement know how much I love you.  It might cause some jealousy!

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

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MEDICAL PLAN COSTS – CONTROLLING WHAT WE CAN CONTROL

Posted by blackhawkbank on November 16, 2011

At Blackhawk Bank, and many places of business around the country, this is the time of year we meet with our employees to discuss employee benefits — most importantly, medical plan benefits.  We look back at the previous year to review our claim experience and forward to the coming year with hopes of maintaining our health and keeping medical costs under control.  In a time of ever increasing medical plan utilization and costs, these conversations are difficult, sometimes emotional, and frequently leave us feeling like ‘victims’ of the health care system.

 When we languish as ‘victims,’ it’s easy to believe there is nothing we can do to control rising medical plan costs.  This year in our discussions with employees, we are drawing distinctions between areas that influence medical costs and focusing our energy on the things we CAN control.  When you look at the list, it’s easy to understand there is much we can do to impact medical costs.

 CONTRIBUTORS TO MEDICAL COSTS

The Economy – As more and more Americans rely on government programs or provider write-offs to “pay” for needed medical care, the cost to the rest of us is rising to offset the gap between what is paid and the true cost.  Can we control it? – NO

 Our Genetics – A very real contributor to our long term propensity for certain diseases, this deal was sealed through mom and dad.  Can we control it? – NO

 The Health Care Delivery System – Article after article will tell you that our health care delivery system is ‘broken’ and there are few that would disagree.  Can we personally control it? – NO

 Environmental Factors – The sun, free radicals, carcinogens in the soil/water/air, pollution, pesticides and more all take their toll on our bodies over time.  Can we control them? – MAYBE, some easier than others. 

Getting Annual Screenings – Age-appropriate, preventive screenings are designed to keep us ‘in-the-know’ regarding our risk for and development of specific disease states.  They help us to identify medical concerns when they are small as opposed to when they are full-blown and more costly.   Can we control? – YES

Our Knowledge About A Healthy Lifestyle – There’s lots of information about making good lifestyle choices available.  While some may be confusing, we can probably all agree that moving more, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting what we eat out of a box or drive-thru is solid advice.  Can we control? – YES

Compliance with Physician Orders – Doing what our doctor tells us to do is TOTALLY in our control!

Physician Engagement – For far too long we’ve known far too little about our own health.  We are in charge of the questions we ask our Physicians and our depth of knowledge regarding our medical issues.

CONCLUSION

We’re in the driver’s seat much more than we want to accept when it comes to medical care and medical costs.  Commit to what YOU can control and help your employees do the same to help tame the rising cost trend.

 

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

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HAVE YOU MET WITH YOUR BANKER LATELY?

Posted by blackhawkbank on September 14, 2011

 For many people, meeting with their banker is about on the same scale as going to the dentist – it’s something you do because you HAVE to and not something you do because you WANT to (no disrespect to dentists intended).  In fact, most people take the time to visit with their banker when there has been a CHANGE – a move to a new community, a marriage, a divorce, a new home/commercial building, a child leaving for college, the death of a spouse, or the need for additional business cash.  The other change that can motivate a visit with your banker is a change in service from your current bank – in other words, something has happened that has ticked you off with your current banking relationship.

In short, we meet with our bankers because we KNOW our needs have changed.

But what about the times we don’t KNOW our needs have changed? What do I mean by that? Banks modify their product line up and available services on a regular basis.  In the event your personal world hasn’t changed in the past few years, you may be unaware of new products that may make your money work harder and new services that may make your banking even easier.

 A banker is trained to review your banking activity to determine if you are in the right account.  They can demonstrate powerful on-line tools for account management, get direction from you about how you want us to handle an overdraft situation in your account, show you how you can bank from your smart phone, get you registered for online bill payment, account alerts and more.  A banker can also review your loan commitments to evaluate if there is a loan product that would be more economical. 

 The banking world has changed dramatically over the past few years.  So while your needs may not have changed, the industry has and there may be options for consideration that have never been there before.  So, just like you schedule preventive check-ups with your dentist to guard against the onset of tooth-related problems, schedule time with your banker to review your banking needs and guard against missing out on the best products/services for you!

 

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President

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THE ECONOMY – AN UNVARNISHED VIEW

Posted by blackhawkbank on August 10, 2011

At Blackhawk Bank we recognize economic uncertainty creates fear. The following is a reprint of an all employee email sent by Blackhawk Bank President Rick Bastian on Monday, August 8, 2011.  We think the perspective is easier to understand and more complete than most media reports.  It also speaks of our commitment to honesty and education and thought leadership. 

 Our clients, and maybe even a few of us, are panicking.  The Dow Jones Industrial Index closed down over 600 points today.  That is on top of the stunning 700 drop last week.  It is in response, in part, to the downgrade of US debt along with that of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and a number of old line insurance companies.  The US economic recovery has been weak and very spotty, our fiscal situation is an unadulterated mess, and we have shown none of the political will to make the hard decisions to get away from borrowing forty-one cents of every dollar we spend and heading toward tripling the national debt in the ten years following Obama taking office. Add to the mix a European Union struggling with a debt contagion and weak economic numbers from a number of its nation states and you don’t get a pretty picture.  Market confidence evaporates with broad-based uncertainty and we have an ocean of uncertainty.  Here is my unvarnished take on things:

  1. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets.  Governments have run out of money and are running low on options.  The first stimulus was a bust.  Easy money and low interest rates have failed.  The market will continue to be volatile and the economy will move sideways, on a good day.  We could be in this for a long time.
  2. There is a real risk of a double dip recession.  The kind of hit to wealth that has occurred for the second time in three years is going to make investors, consumers and businesses very, very cautious.  Many of our clients will see the progress made toward rebuilding their finances come to a screeching halt.  None of this bodes well for an economy that depends on consumer spending for its engine of growth.
  3. Our political leadership, both the executive and legislative branches, have failed to demonstrate that they can solve problems and our confidence that they can ever do so spirals lower with each week.  They continue to want to play politics and the blame game with what is really a simple math problem.

 What then do we tell our clients?  The same thing we told them last time there was a meltdown.  Don’t panic.  Be cautious but deliberate.  Last time, a number of clients did panic and exited the market to maximize their losses and stayed on the sidelines to see the market recover without them.  At the same time, they should be cautious about committing liquidity to major purchases or undertaking borrowing for anything that isn’t critical.

An old rule of thumb is that consumers should have six months of expenses in the bank.  Not bad advice.  The job market may become more uncertain.  Companies learned the lesson of responding too slowly to the last recession.  It is a lesson they won’t repeat.

 I am not painting a rosy picture and I hope I am wrong.  But when you give the “advice you need, for the life you want” it requires honesty, as unpleasant as it may be.  We will continue to support deserving clients through this recession, if there is another one, just like we supported them through the last one.

 What then does this mean for the bank?  We remain profitable and strong and I don’t expect that to change, but the weak economy and higher unemployment will continue to present loan challenges to us.  As I told the board of directors, “The good news is that we are running full speed ahead.  The bad news is that it is in mud up to our knees.”

 I would welcome your comments or questions.

 Rick Bastian
President

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

OVERDRAFT COVERAGE OPTIONS

Posted by blackhawkbank on June 24, 2011

I’ve blogged about this topic before, but with enhanced regulatory requirements related to overdrafts, it bears further discussion.

First, let’s all agree that most people spend more money than they have in their bank account at some point.  Sometimes it’s a choice and other times it’s related to bad math, but the end result is the same – you are officially overdrawn.  The next question becomes: what do you want to happen?

There are only a few things that can happen:

  • Your check or debit card will be denied at check-out. (Ugh!)
  • The bank will return the check to the merchant and BOTH the bank and the merchant will charge you a returned check fee (Ugh!)
  • The bank will honor the check and charge you a fee dependent upon what directions you have given them for situations such as this. (Aah!)

Second, let’s all agree that the hassle, embarrassment and high cost of NOT completing the transaction are not what you want to happen. 

You have choices about the direction you give the bank for honoring overdraft transactions with varying related costs:

  • You can direct the bank to ‘sweep’ money from another account you have at the bank into the overdrawn account to cover the overdraft.  This works great if you have another account with a balance in it – like a savings account or other checking account.  It’s also the lowest cost solution.  A small ‘sweep’ fee is charged for moving the needed dollars from one account to another. If you never use it, you never pay a fee.
  • You can apply for an Overdraft Protection Line of Credit.  This loan product is linked to your checking account and will automatically be advanced in increments of $100 to cover the amount of your overdraft.  The loan is repaid through automatic monthly deductions.  There is an annual fee and small fee for each advance.  If you never use it, all you pay is the annual fee.
  • You can ask the bank to extend the courtesy of covering your overdraft instead of returning it.  At Blackhawk Bank our “Courtesy Pay” feature provides a safety net up to a pre-determined overdraft limit and is extended to accounts in good standing.  The bank charges a Non-Sufficient Funds Paid Item Charge in exchange for honoring the transaction. A newer federal rule requires you to give us direction about how to process ATM and one-time debit card transactions using “Courtesy Pay.” Simply put, if you want the bank to honor your ATM and one-time debit card transactions that could cause your account to become overdrawn, you must ‘Opt-In’. 

A Personal Banker is best equipped to talk with you about which of these options is the best choice for you.  While most of us would like to think we will NEVER spend more than we have in our account, experience tells us otherwise.  It’s best to think about it BEFORE it happens and have the process set up that insures the outcome you desire.

Terri Burdick, Senior Vice President 

Blackhawk Bank is a Member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

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