How Jan helped protect our customer’s money Apr 06, 2015, 9:16 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

How Jan helped protect our customer’s money

Learn about what you can do to reduce the risk of fraud.

The other day Jan told me about a recent fraud attempt that she dealt with in the customer service center. The fraudster was targeting a senior’s primary account and Jan was able to keep the fraudster away from the customer’s money until the customer and his son could close the account and open a new one. Later, the customer and his son learned a few things they could do to keep the customer’s money a little safer in the future. Here’s what happened, in Jan’s words.

I received a phone call soon after the customer-service center opened on a Thursday at around 7:30 in the morning. The man on the line requested to set up his account for online banking. I asked for some account information and he said he could provide each piece—which did I want? Since any of the options would do, he gave me the information I needed. Since I needed to verify his identity in order to set him up with online banking, he also gave me some identifying information. He had the right answers, but I just felt like something was off. I had this feeling that something was wrong.

I looked at his account at some information and notes—I felt sure that I wasn’t speaking with the real customer. A few details tipped me off that something wasn’t right. As I talked with him, I could tell it was not our customer. I decided to ask for a few more identifiers, just to be sure. Over the course of talking through more questions and answers, he answered most correctly, but one wrong. It was a mistake that the customer wouldn’t make, but a fraudster could.

I didn’t tell him which question he answered wrong, but I let the man on the phone know he needed to come in to the branch and show his ID so we could help him. In his friendly way, he said he was nearby and would be in when we opened.

After I put an alert and pending close on the account, I left a message for the branch manager near the customer to call me. Only a few minutes later, the customer and his son contacted us. We discovered that a fraudster told the customer that he won something and they needed information from him to put the money into his account. He gave his information to the friendly fraudster, who was the Las Vegas man I spoke with on the phone. The customer told his son about his “winnings”, who urged him to call the bank, as he suspected it was fraud. As soon as the branch opened, the customer and his son were there to close the account and open a new one.

Thanks to Jan’s years of experience and care for her customers, she knew not to just wait for the right answers and move forward with the fraudster’s request—she listened to her feeling and looked for some signs. If the fraudster—who had a lot of information about our customer—had been able to set up online banking, he could have easily wiped out our customer’s account in a few minutes, probably before our customer’s son would have heard about and suspected what was happening.

One advantage of keeping your money in a bank versus other places is that the bank will protect its customers in circumstances like these. Assuming that the real customer was not an accomplice to the fraud, and assuming that the customer notified the bank promptly, the bank would have reimbursed the customer the amount that was stolen. However, it’s better for everyone to prevent the fraud from happening so that no reimbursement is necessary. Even with reimbursement from a bank, fraud is a terrible inconvenience for our customers and an invasion of their privacy.

We can help you put a few extra checks and balances in place to reduce the risk of fraud. If you don’t need help managing your finances, but could use an extra set of eyes to watch for fraud, we can help you set up a helper with view-only access. They will be able to see what’s going on with your account, but can’t make any changes or transactions. They can watch for unusual transactions in real time and you can even set up alerts for types of transactions you don’t usually do.

Here’s one type of structure we often recommend:

If you need a little more help, you may want to consider opening a smaller, secondary account with an automatic transfer from your primary account each month that will cover your groceries or bills or whatever aspect of your finances you need help with. You can then add a trusted helper only to that smaller account. You can add a second helper with view-only access to watch over both accounts—to protect you and your first helper from fraud, suspected fraud or accusations. There are more ways we can help you set up the help you need—just talk to one of us and we can walk you through some of the options.

We care about you. Call us at 800-815-BANK or visit one of our locations to put some checks and balances in places. Visit here for more resources on seniors and fraud.

Take advantage of $5K tax deduction Apr 02, 2015, 5:29 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

If you’re looking for a way to reduce your taxable income for your 2014 taxes, consider the advantages of an IRA—you have about a week to make contributions to an IRA for last year. Contributions to IRAs can be made as late as the first due date of a tax return, and can be considered retroactive to the previous tax year, so you can still make a qualifying IRA contribution and get the tax benefit if you qualify for your 2014 tax filing. For 2014 the dollar limits for IRA contributions are $5,500 if you are age 49 and younger, $6,500 if you are 50 and older.  If you don’t have an IRA, Bank of American Fork can help.

Bank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you are guaranteed a safe return and you are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee. Depending on the type of IRA you choose and subject to IRS rules, you can earn tax-free or tax-deferred income. When you are eligible, you can receive distributions from the money in your IRA.

Here are the types of IRAs we offer:

Traditional IRA: Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution.

• Roth IRA: Allows contributions of after-tax income, if qualified. Qualified distributions of principal and interest are tax-free. After retirement, distributions are not required.

• SEP IRA: SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It allows a business to make contributions toward its employees’ retirement using IRAs. These are especially popular with sole proprietors, where the business owner and the employee are the same person. SEPs allow a higher maximum contribution than a Traditional or ROTH IRA. (See IRS for eligibility requirements)

At Bank of American Fork, variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with either a $500 or a $5,000 minimum opening deposit.

Don’t wait any longer to start your retirement savings and save on your taxes. Open an IRA today! At Bank of American Fork, our friendly staff can meet with you and show you firsthand how we can help you secure a strong financial future. Call 1-800-BANK to set an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you.

Consult your tax advisor for details.

Electronic payments to speed up this year and next Mar 16, 2015, 9:26 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Consumers will see a change in how quickly funds are available.

Stella calls her dad, Christopher, and asks him to send money for her housing payment, which she needs, like, yesterday. And yes, now, in 2015, Christopher drives over to the nearest branch of the national bank he uses and deposits a paper check that will go into her account so the funds are available to Stella the next day. Christopher isn’t afraid of sending electronic payments or unfamiliar with his bank’s person-to-person payment service, it’s just that sending an electronic payment could mean that it will be three days before Stella can use the funds Christopher sends.

The good news for Christopher and Stella? Electronic payments should speed up, nationally, this year and next.

The Federal Reserve System just released its next steps in developing an infrastructure to speed up electronic payments and settlements.

When you make a person-to-person payment or send an electronic payment for a utility bill, the time it takes for your payment to process is affected by the Federal Reserve’s system on the back end. For consumers, the coming change means faster and more secure payments.

The Fed is launching a task force to find practical approaches to speeding up the system and to get feedback from industries involved in payments systems to find additional ways to offer greater speed, security, efficiency and cross-border options.

This year and the beginning of 2016, the Fed is laying out a policy framework for the new system and with the feedback from the task force, will begin implementing the practical solutions. The Fed has already identified a couple of ways it will change to speed up payments and make it safer. To improve security, the Fed will also expand its anti-fraud and payments risk management offerings. Its longer-term goal is weekend or 24-hour service, and added that it would promote greater use of same-day ACH and expand its international payment services.

As the Federal Reserve successfully implements policy to speed up its end of the electronic payments process, Bank of American Fork customers can expect to see any electronic payments they make through online banking speed up, including electronic bill pay, person-to-person payments and transfers between accounts. We’re always looking for ways to offer you better service so we monitor national financial news with you in mind—this is a story we’re excited about.

Since Stella lives less than a few hours away from Christopher while she’s attending college, Christopher has even considered driving to where she lives to drop off cash. Soon, electronic payments will be faster than sending the money by Pony Express, and Stella and Christopher won’t have to worry about being robbed on the trail by outlaw Jesse James.

Avoiding Failure-to-Launch with Open-Book Management Mar 12, 2015, 8:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder

Guest blogger Tyson is starting a series here about open book management. Make sure you check back for additional articles!

My last several articles have stressed the importance of open-book management, a process whereby every employee uses financial data to help achieve desired business outcomes.  I have stressed the use of both income statement and balance sheet information, with an emphasis on profitability and—even more importantly—on cash flow.

Further, I have called attention to the fact that the majority of key performance indicators (KPIs) from financial statements are lagging indicators. These are the results of leading indicators, such as the number of sales calls, lean manufacturing techniques, expense controls, how fast you collect receivables, etc. By illuminating both leading and lagging indicators, virtually any organization will enjoy significant improvement in its performance, productivity and bottom line.

Conceptually, I have found that open-book management makes sense to nearly all CEOs and business owners. Paradoxically, however, very few seem to have the resolve to implement this practice in their own companies. Why? It boils down to a failure of making an unshakable commitment to the process.  I have found that a few essential questions often help firm up executive resolve to move forward with open-book:

• Have you clearly identified your desired outcomes?  Specifically, what enhancements would you like to see in your profitability and cash flow?

• What would be the benefits of these improvements? Specifically, will you have a stronger and more amicable relationship with your banker or equity investors? Will your company’s value be enhanced as an acquisition candidate? Will you simply have less stress and sleep better at night?

• What are the costs to enjoy those benefits? Will it require taking some time with your accountant to bring your financial statements up to date and perform some of the fundamental analyses I’ve discussed in my last several articles? Will that entail some out-of-pocket costs? Will you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to openly share with your employees your financial warts? 

• Is it worth it? Commitment is almost always a function of cost-benefit. Do the benefits (improved profitability/cash flow, better relationships with the financial community, and less worry/better health) exceed the costs? If not, don’t bother with open-book! If, however, those benefits are attractive, then resolve to move forward.

One of the significant challenges of adopting open-book is where to start. First, consider the various actions you might take in launching open-book, and rank each action in terms of (1) its potential value to your company, and (2) how easy (or hard) implementation will be. Once each action is ranked according to these dimensions, you can easily place it on the following grid:


 Consider, for instance, the action of calculating (and improving) your company’s cash conversion cycle How valuable would an improvement of 10 days in your cash conversion cycle be? My experience says this would have extremely high value! How easy is this to do?  Well, it depends on how up to date and accurate your financials are, but let’s assume that it would take a bit of work to pull together what you need; we’ll call it “Hard to Do.”  So, the action of calculating and improving your cash conversion cycle would fall in the upper right quadrant.

With most who are new to open-book management, it is best to start with the upper left quadrant, as this represents “low-hanging fruit” and allows us to enjoy some early successes before moving to the more difficult high-value actions. One of my clients pursued open-book this way by doing two simple things: (1) he shared his monthly P&L with all of his employees, highlighting the fact that they had never enjoyed more than a 2 percent pre-tax net profit, and (2) he promoted the idea that they needed to exceed 6 percent pre-tax net for the current year.  This was very easy to do, but frankly, I doubted the value. However, I was wrong!  By launching open-book in this simple way, my client’s company did exceed six percent that year—and every year thereafter. Once his employees knew the profitability and the goal of the company, they began to look for ways to improve. “Easy to Do, High Value!”

Clearly, not every action under open-book management is easy, but I strongly recommend that all companies carefully consider the benefits of launching such a program. I believe you will see it is worth your commitment.

Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models.

Commercial and industrial lending Feb 26, 2015, 4:04 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

How to finance commercial and industrial endeavors

Are you overwhelmed by the types of financing that are out there?

Whether you need money to start a new business, expand an existing one, build a new facility, purchase inventory or upgrade your equipment, Bank of American Fork has money to lend. We’re prepared with an experienced team of loan officers who can help you obtain the right loan for your business.

Here’s how you may want to prepare:

• Familiarize yourself with some of the types of financing that may be available for you. Use the handy guide below (or the PDF version here: Commercial and Industrial Lending) to look for some of the loan terms that would work best for you, including length of repayment, rate options and more. To search for the type of financing that may fit your specific need, try using the “find” function in your web browser (Ctrl + F) to search for a word, like “equipment” or “real estate.” Your web browser will highlight the word you’re searching for, and you can look at the chart to see the type of financing that may be effective. For example, if you find “equipment,” you’ll see that leasing may be a good option. Knowing a little bit about the types of financing available and what the terms might be may help you feel comfortable as you’re making decisions.

• Make sure you’re looking at the 4 C’s that lenders look at: Cash Flow, Credit, Collateral and Character. Learn more here.

• Prepare to qualify for a loan by evaluating your financial fitness and preparing or updating your business plan. If you feel like you’re still on this step, here’s a great resource.

• Get to know your loan officer. Even if you are still overwhelmed by the financing options available or confused by some part of the loan process, our experienced loan officers are ready to answer your questions and walk you through the process. Call 800-815-BANK or contact a business banker.

Category: Business, Loans | No Comments

Merchant services available at Bank of American Fork Feb 12, 2015, 8:00 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Bank of American Fork offers some of the nation’s leading merchant services technology through TransFirst®, which offers proven, reliable systems in use by more than 200,000 merchants. Merchant services allow you to enjoy reliable business banking with a bank you trust. With merchant services through Bank of American Fork, you can accept a wide variety of payment types with highly competitive processing rates, available next-day funding  and free 24/7/365 U.S.-based merchant support.

Here are some of the highlights about merchant services offered through Bank of American Fork:

Accept all major bank cards at one low rate—with American Express® already bundled in! Process Visa®, MasterCard®, Discover®, and American Express® and PayPal™ payment card, all at the same rates. Most merchant services providers only offer American Express Card transactions as a separate contract, statement and rate, but with Bank of American Fork merchant services, all of your major bank card transactions will be on one statement, with one settlement and at one price.*

If you need in-store, mobile, wired, wireless and Internet-based processing, we have a variety of solutions for you.

• In-person or in-store payments – Whether you have terminals, a tablet, a cash register, a bar code scanner or other, we offer tech-forward point of sale (POS) transaction processing systems that work reliably wherever you need to go to make the sale.

• Online – A virtual terminal can be used to process credit-card and ACH transactions from any computer with Internet access anywhere in the world, allowing you to securely and efficiently handle a series of additional tasks including the verification, reporting and processing of credit-card and ACH payments.

• With your mobile device – Accept card payments with your smartphone or tablet so you can do business almost anywhere.

You’ll also be able to accept payments like checks, ACH and EBT. CrossCheck® provides for electronic processing and settlement of checks at the point of sale. ACH payment is a tool that electronically debits a customer’s bank account instead of using paper checks. With Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), electronic benefits from the government are administered via payment cards to tens of millions of recipients each month, includes programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and TENF.

In addition to offering the merchant services you need to keep your business successful and running, we have made sure that security is the foundation of our electronic processing. We offer our merchant services through TransFirst® because of their state-of-the-art data security technology and our committment to keeping you and your customers safe from the very real threats of credit card fraud and identity theft.

For more information or to get merchant services, call 800-815-BANK or visit our website.

*Merchants that process less than $1,000,000 in American Express annual charge volume may be program-eligible (some restrictions and exclusions may apply).

Trademarks referenced above are the property of their respective owners and are not necessarily affiliated with Bank of American Fork or TransFirst.

Teachers, preachers and neighbors build their own homes Jan 26, 2015, 9:36 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

415 homes built, many jobs created through community reinvestment programs

Jane Farr was 64 years old when she and her husband decided to build their own home. They weren’t just designing the house and handing over plans to a contractor—they were going to be responsible for physical labor, including roofing, framing and more. Since their marriage a few years prior, the Farrs lived in a basement apartment and looked forward to one day being able to host family, especially when Farr’s children came to visit from the Philippines.

They applied for and were approved to participate in Self-Help Homes, an organization that coordinates funding and resources to help five to 12 individuals or families at a time in helping to build each others’ homes. Farr and her husband would be responsible for at least 35 hours of work a week and she was a little worried about how they would complete it, “in their old age.” Her husband, Ron Farr, was confident that they could do it together with the help of volunteers, family and friends.

Three days before they were going to break ground on the project, Ron passed away.

Farr wondered if she would be able to complete the project. Her husband was gone and she was still responsible for the same number of hours of work. Especially now, she wanted to have a home where her children and other family could visit. Inspired by Ron’s confidence in themselves, the Self-Help Homes process and the supportive community they were to be a part of, Farr moved forward.

“I was blessed with kind and supportive supervisors and four other families who were understanding of my limitations,” Farr said, less than a year later, during the open house for the four completed homes. “There were many times I felt protected during the program. I felt Ron was there for me. With my success in the Rural Housing Develop Corporation Mutual Self-Help Homes program, I could say to all that it is never too late to dream!”

Brad Bishop, the Utah director for Self-Help Homes, says it’s watching people like Jane Farr change over the course of the program that make it worthwhile for him. He’s been with Housing Authority of Utah County since 2000, and with Self-Help Homes since they started the program in Utah in 1998.

“The families that come in are different families than those that come out,” Bishop said. “I love seeing that change.

Bishop credits Self-Help Homes’ success in Utah to a commitment to building good, long-term homes that elevate the neighborhoods where they build. They use current plans and update them to make sure the style of the homes will fit in and be an enhancement to the neighborhood.

“Even if someone is a little resistant to new housing built through Self-Help Homes at first, by the end they realize that the people building homes in their neighborhood are their kids’ teachers, people they go to church with or are just like their own aging parents,” Bishop said.

In fact, an estimated 42 percent of Utah County would qualify for a program like this, according to Self-Help Homes.

With a high percentage of individuals and families who qualify for some type of aid in getting into a home that fits their needs and a home-buying landscape that has changed over the last 50 years, more and more people, businesses and organizations are coming together to help. In fact, one project by Self-Help Homes and the Provo City Housing Authority, the Maeser School and surrounding homes in Provo, brought together 17 different sources of funding to complete.

Bank of American Fork assists in programs like these by helping to obtain Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant funds—for Self-Help Homes the grant funds are used to buy lots for upcoming neighborhood builds. The bank also donates time, tools and other equipment.

Self-Help Homes isn’t the only program benefitting from AHP grant funds. Bank of American Fork has helped other organiaztions like Northern Utah Neighborhood Improvement Project and Springville Senior Housing  to obtain grant funds and has participated in programs like the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle’s Homestart for more than a decade. Homestart provides grants to qualified home buyers to assist them with their down payment or closing costs.

All of these programs and organizations work in different ways to help individuals and families, but one thing is the same—people are helping their friends, family and neighbors.

Bill Swadley, a vice president and business development officer at Bank of American Fork, originally became involved in community reinvestment almost three decades ago. Along with others at the bank, most of his job is spent finding groups like Self-Help Homes, Habitat for Humanity, Homestart and more for the bank to help support. He then figures out what type of contribution will change lives—support in obtaining a grant, financial support from the bank, tools and equipment or something else. He also spends time matching up employees at the bank with specific skills to programs or organizations that need financial expertise on their committees or boards.

“These programs give people chances they may not have had otherwise. It allows more people to enter the free market system through homeownership or through starting a business. Individuals, families and our communities are strengthened,” Swadley said. “Bottom line, for me—it’s just the right thing to do.”

Swadley is just one of the many people at Bank of American Fork who are passionate about community reinvestment. Bill Swadley, Gary Sell, Richard Gray and Kelly Palmer are all involved in projects like Self-Help Homes. Their involvement includes a wide breadth of projects that help many segments of the communities the bank serves, including seniors, migrant workers, single-parent families, persons overcoming addiction, special-needs families and more.

“We exist to strengthen our communities,” said Swadley. “We live and work here, too, so we have a vested interest in seeing our neighbors, friends with small businesses and the economy thrive.”

More than 415 individuals or families are in homes partially funded by AHP grants that Bank of American Fork helped obtain. Another 63 are currently underway.

Sixteen of those in-process homes are part of a neighborhood in Elk Ridge. While some of the community was a little resistant to the idea of people building their own homes, they’ve quickly warmed up and now the city has even helped fund a playground in the neighborhood (that the new residents put in themselves, of course). The people that make up the Elk Ridge home-building group have proven that they are enhancing the neighborhood. They’ve proven that they’re just like their new neighbors. To celebrate, they had an open house to share stories from the building project and officially open their new community.

“There’s this electricity at the open houses,” said Gary Sell, vice president and mortgage loan officer at Bank of American Fork. “I love going because I get to hear two or three individuals talk about their experience. The whole neighborhood is made up of people who worked together to build their homes so there’s this energy between them.”

Bank of American Fork’s involvement in community reinvestment goes beyond community development loans for organizations like Self-Help Homes to help build houses. Bank of American Fork also makes more low-to-moderate-income mortgage loans than many of its peer banks. In making loans to small business owners, Bank of American Fork has helped create many jobs in our communities.

In addition to the many projects for which Bank of American Fork is the sole sponsor in obtaining grant funds, the employees at Bank of American Fork don’t hesitate to help obtain grant money for projects that are only partially supported by other banks. Sell describes his thought-process in taking on projects to nominate for AHP grants as, “whether it’s a new project or an existing one that needs support, let’s help wherever we can.”

In 2014 Bank of American Fork was one of only 41 banks in the country that received an “outstanding” rating for community reinvestment from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The examination included a thorough look at the bank’s involvement in community-development lending compared to peer banks, low-to-moderate income loans compared to peer banks, the amount of community-development contributions to qualified organizations and the number and volume of employee hours spent serving in community-development organizations.

These programs work because of the people. People are behind all of the mechanisms that are building our communities, piece by piece. The people building their own homes, who, like Jan Farr, might come in a little unsure of their abilities, but come out very able and confident. People like Brad Bishop and Karen Weatherspoon at Self-Help Homes who run the program, find potential homeowners and show them they can build a safe and beautiful home. And then there are people like Bill Swadley, Gary Sell and others at Bank of American Fork who are passionate about reinvesting in the community.

With so many people who want to see Utah’s communities grow and the people prosper, Jane Farr was right when she said, “With courage, persistence and determination, you can win.”

Looking for a secure place to invest money for yourself or your employees? Jan 08, 2015, 8:00 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Whether you’re thinking of yourself or investing for employees, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged when you start thinking about or reading about retirement savings. Even if you’re thinking this topic is a little heavy for what you want to focus on today, give it a chance. Opening an Individual Retirement Account (or IRA) may be easier than you think. Read this short article for an overview of how to get started, with the tools to do it built right in.

First, decide which type of IRA you want to open. Here are the types Bank of American Fork offers:

• If you think you’ll be in the same tax bracket upon retirement and you want to pay taxes on the income later, consider: Traditional IRA. Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution.

• If retirement isn’t in your near future but you want to save a little from each paycheck, and you anticipate an increase in your salary as you get closer to retirement, consider: Roth IRA. Allows contributions of after-tax income, if qualified. Qualified distributions of principal and interest are tax-free. After retirement, distributions are not required.

• If you’re the sole owner of your business, consider: SEP IRA. SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It allows a business to make contributions toward its employees’ retirement using IRAs. These are especially popular with sole proprietors, where the business owner and the employee are the same person. SEPs allow a higher maximum contribution (25% of compensation up to $50,000) than a Traditional or ROTH IRA.

Then, decide how much you can afford to contribute right now and out of each paycheck. Variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with either a $500 or a $5,000 minimum opening deposit. Either way, Bank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you’re guaranteed a steady return and are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee.

You can open your IRA by visiting one of our 14 branches or by calling 800-815-BANK.

Once you decide how much you can afford to contribute each month and set up an automatic payment (your banker can help you set that up), give yourself a few months to get used to living without that money in your pocket each month. Once it feels normal, increase your contribution.

Saving for retirement might feel overwhelming, but getting started by simply opening an IRA and setting up a contribution will put you on the right track. You’ll feel more prepared and be more prepared.

We’re excited about Apple Pay—here’s why. Jan 06, 2015, 6:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Near-field communication makes it difficult for fraudsters to exploit using debit and credit card numbers.

We are pursuing Apple Pay™ with our credit and debit card processors so we have the cards available to use with Apple Pay once Apple’s® upcoming roll-outs happen. We anticipate being able to offer Apple Pay processing during the first or second quarter of 2015.

This new technology aims to increase the layers of security in place to keep your money secure. Here’s how it works:

Apple Pay uses near-field communication (NFC), which is difficult to eavesdrop on, and debit and credit card numbers are not shared with merchants, lessening the risk of fraud using those numbers. Although fraudsters are always looking for new ways to exploit, we are also constantly looking for new and improved ways to protect our customers.

Users can pay by holding their iPhone® 6 near a merchant’s contactless reader. Users can also use Apple Pay to pay within apps. Near-field communication is a form of short-range wireless communication where the antenna used is much smaller than the wavelength of the carrier signal. The very short range of NFC is what makes it difficult to eavesdrop on.

iPhone’s Passbook® will store debit and credit card information for users. With Apple Pay, instead of using actual credit and debit card numbers when a card is added to Passbook, a unique device account number is assigned, encrypted and stored in a dedicated chip in iPhone. According to Apple, these numbers are never stored on Apple servers. When a purchase is made, the device account number and a transaction-specific dynamic security code are used to process the payment—instead of the actual credit and debit card numbers. This is one more layer of security for Apple Pay users.

We’re as excited as you are, so we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available!

Are you a business owner who would like to offer customers the ability to make purchases using Apple Pay? We can offer the technology and the near-field communication (NFC) reader equipment you need to accept Apple Pay. Call 800-815-BANK for more information about accepting Apple Pay and for a quote on merchant services including Apple Pay.

Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple, Inc. The Apple logo, Apple, iPhone and Passbook are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.

You’ve probably spent some considerable time thinking about how you can improve efficiency in your business next year. Have you considered what you’ll do to improve the working environment for your employees? A recent study shows that employees who are happy or feel satisfied are 12 percent more productive.

So what can you do to make or keep employees happy and satisfied?

Make sure work areas are comfortable. A study by Staples shows that office ergonomics can improve productivity and well-being. A whopping 86 percent of people report some discomfort from office furniture and equipment. When you consider the cost of upgrading work stations to include ergonomic chairs or standing desks (since studies show that sitting might be the new smoking), remember to weigh it against the benefit of happier, more-productive employees.

Consider allowing telecommuting or more-flexible work hours. Employees who are given flexible hours or allowed to telecommute may be more loyal, according to this study. When you consider the high cost of turnover, it may seem worth it to make room in your policies for flexibility and telecommuting.

Eliminate office politics. Making the lists of top reasons people quit over and over again are things like: not feeling respected by coworkers or supervisors, not getting along with coworkers and other office politics. Consider how you can improve the environment in your office and help people to get along. This may be the hardest change to make—just figuring out what the problem is can be tough. Try starting with an employee survey. Encourage employees to be honest with their answers. Then, make sure you do something about the issues they feel are important.

This year, consider improving your office environment to increase productivity. You may end up happier and more productive yourself!

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