Although the technology and services banks offer have evolved and changed over the years, relatively little has changed about the design of bank branches. You can usually expect to see a line of teller counters against a wall with tellers waiting behind. Bank of American Fork is revolutionizing community banking and the customer experience with its new technology and design at the St. George branch.
Bank of American Fork’s St. George branch, which opened in August, is unlike most other banks. Instead of a teller line, the bank features a teller “pod,” which is more accommodating to customers and provides flexibility to tellers. Instead of a teller line, the pod is a table with computers that swivel at each end and is accessible from all sides, so tellers can interact directly with customers. The pod allows customers to do more in one place and gets tellers out from behind a counter, where they can help customers better.
“I really like the new pod system and technology bar here at the St. George branch because it’s easier to interact with customers,” said Benjamin Smith, a teller for Bank of American Fork. “Instead of just describing what we offer, I can show them what our tools look like. When they decide which products to use, I can help them learn how to use those tools right here in the branch.”
The pod was created with a close eye to function, and is fully equipped to handle every service a customer would expect in a traditional line and window arrangement. They feature a teller machine used to deposit and withdraw funds, reducing the chance of human error in cash transactions.
“This design allows for the progression of counting money to offering additional services,” said Richard Grow of DEI Incorporated, the architectural firm that designed the pods and flow of the St. George branch. “In all of the retail world, they get up from the counter to come around and help customers, then return to the counter to finish the transaction. This is really taking retail into the banking world.”
This new design allows tellers to leave their stations in order to teach customers how to do online banking, discuss loans and mortgages or meet in private for various banking needs.
Besides the teller pods, Bank of American Fork has included a “learning center” equipped with various mobile tools customers might use for their banking needs. This center allows tellers and other bank employees to teach customers how to use, for example, an iPad® to do mobile banking. Customers are equipped with the knowledge they need in order to have smooth and secure banking via a mobile device.
“Banking needs to keep up with the lifestyles and desires of its customers,” said Brian Thompson, senior vice president at Bank of American Fork. “Moving forward, our branches will continue to evolve to benefit the customer experience. In terms of service, we want banking to be shaped around the customer’s needs and not by how things have traditionally been handled in banking.”
Bank of American Fork strives to create a banking experience that is both convenient and connects people. The new branch in St. George is one way to do just that.
ICBA spreads the word about Project Teddy Bear in your community
Sandy Dubois started Project Teddy Bear 15 years ago as a way for employees at Bank of American Fork to give back to their communities instead of giving gifts to each other during the holidays. Dubois is passionate about helping children, and she wanted the project to be about the at-risk children in Utah communities. That first year, customers, community members and bank employees donated a couple of hundred teddy bears to be taken to a family care center to be used in play therapy or for children taken from their homes and from everything they knew. Last year, during the 14th Annual Project Teddy Bear, you brought in more than 20,000 bears that served the children in care centers across Utah.
Every year Dubois and others hope the care centers will call and say there’s no need for the bears—that all of Utah’s children are being taken care of and none are victims of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so Bank of American Fork seeks the community’s help in increasing the number of donations every year.
Now, Project Teddy Bear’s national recognition from Independent Community Bankers of America’s 2014 National Community Bank Service Award will help spread the word and get more people involved in helping Utah’s children and children across the nation. Independent Banker magazine highlighted the project in its September issue and Dubois and Bank of American Fork invite any other bank or business to copy the model.
“The reason this recognition is important to us is because it helps the community,” said Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork. “Our local communities have helped more than 73,000 children simply by getting involved. Some people drop off one bear when they come in to make a deposit and we have others, like girl-scout troops, who take on the project and bring in hundreds of bears. Each donation matters, because each of those bears represents an at-risk child here in Utah.”
Project Teddy Bear will start its 15th annual collection beginning November 20. Drop off a bear at any of our 14 branch locations. We know you care about the children in your communities, so talk to us at www.facebook.com/BankAF or @bankaf to find out how you can be involved.
Tracey Larson is Bank of American Fork’s resident expert on age-friendly banking, whose passion stems from being a daughter and daughter-in-law of senior parents. She’s currently the financial representative for the Governor’s Commission on Aging and is also a member of Provo’s Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Coalition.
We’ve talked here about the risk of elder financial abuse and how to mitigate that risk. Sometimes, though, the risk comes from careless or uninformed planning. The example Janeen Diamond brought up on Fresh Living last week was of a daughter who is a joint account holder on her senior father’s account. If the daughter goes through a divorce, Diamond asked, is the father’s money vulnerable? See the video where Tracey talked about the implications of joint accounts and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Recently, a customer came into one of our branches to deposit money from a very small, retail business. One of the $50 bills was counterfeit and we quickly realized that the counterfeiter took advantage of the fact that the receiving end of the bill was a young, inexperienced teenager, working his first summer job.
Another way a counterfeiter might scam people is with a stack of mixed bills for a KSL or Craigslist sale. A counterfeiter might buy your item from a re-sale site like KSL, and hand you a stack of $20 bills. Knowing you’ll likely notice if they’re all counterfeit, the counterfeiter will mix in fake bills in the middle, which you might skim by when you’re counting the money.
How can you avoid being scammed by counterfeit bills? Below are a few tips to help you.
Hold each bill up to the light. You should be able to see fibers, or threads, in the bills. Make sure you hold each one up, since some may be real and some may be counterfeit. You might feel silly at first, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
What does the bill feel like? When you have a stack of bills, feel each one. Do any feel different than the others? Checking what the money feels like is one of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill.
Think like a counterfeiter. Counterfeiters know better than to try and pass off fake bills at a bank. Counterfeiters typically try to launder counterfeit bills through fast-food restaurants, mall shops or other places where inexperienced teenagers won’t detect fake bills. If you’re a business owner, make sure all of your employees are trained on detecting counterfeit bills. Sometimes it helps to make sure they’ve seen and handled bills of different denominations. If you’re selling something on KSL or Craigslist or similar, make sure you’re wary of counterfeit bills.
Ask your banker. If you suspect something might be counterfeit, bring it to your banker’s attention. They likely have machines that help to detect fake bills and can check for you. Don’t try and hide it in a stack of bills.
Know your money. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and check out the different security features on each of the old and new bills. The more familiar you are with these, the more difficult it will be for a counterfeiter to fool you.
Check out other resources. The Secret Service provides background information about currency security you might be interested in checking out.
As always, be wary and don’t be afraid to question a bill you receive. If you have questions, come talk to a banker in any of our 14 branches or call us at 800-815-BANK.
Do you have $1,000 set aside for emergencies? If you already do, you could probably use another $1,000 in that account. Experts recommend keeping at least three months expenses in a reliable, liquid account – though even an extra $1,000 can be a life-saver. But finding $1,000 to save isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this four-step plan on how to save $1,000 in 10 months.
Get Started with These 4 Steps
Once you have at least $1,000 in your emergency account, continue your savings success and continue to build your emergency savings or apply that money to a new savings goal. Perhaps you have debt you need to pay down or want to save for a car or home.
No matter what you are saving for, America Saves can support you with tips and advice through emails and text messages. Sign up for these by taking the America Saves Pledge Today.
Katie Bryan works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.
Couples cite financial problems as a common cause of divorce. At Bank of American Fork, we believe one way some financial stress contributing to separation or divorce can be avoided is with smart banking, including utilizing available technology and automating payments.
In the past, paying bills was simpler. People paid in cash or by check and there may have been fewer bills to be paid. Now, more bills means more complexity: mortgage or rent, food, utilities, student debt, credit card debt, phone bills, Internet and cable, and car payments can easily be a part of nearly every household.
All these bills can result in confusion and disagreement in the absence of a budget, enough money to pay them, and differences in spending habits. Making a budget is hard enough, but trying to stick to it can really cause rifts.
Budgeting and planning are vital components to maintaining a peaceful relationship when it comes to financial stability. Studies show that couples who fight regularly about finances are 30 percent more likely to separate. Couples who budget for individual spending, automate spending to help them stick to their budgets and communicate where money is going and how much there is will have less financial stress in the relationship.
“Automating some of your bill payments may reduce stress,” said Joshua Everton, eBanking manager for Bank of American Fork’s holding company People’s Utah Bancorp. “It works like this: you and your partner make the decision once about what your budget should look like, set up automatic bill payments to go out first thing after paychecks come in. Then you don’t get to the end of the month without enough to pay bills, angry at someone else for spending too much on the wrong things.”
Consider doing the same thing with savings. If you and your partner decide to save for a house, car, vacation, retirement or something else, decide how much you can afford to save each month. Then, set up an automatic transfer to go into a separate savings account—when you set up that transfer, you’re making the decision once to save every month. You may even want to use an online-only savings account, which often have higher rates.
Financial stress doesn’t have to be a reason for a relationship to flounder. Use the technology available to you to make it easier to stick to your goals.
For the first time in years, more Americans anticipate a comfortable retirement. What can you do to make sure you’re ready for retirement?
With the average life span increasing, many Americans have struggled in retirement. Their parents and grandparents typically only planned for a decade of expenses following retirement—now, many people are realizing they will be working longer than they anticipated and/or need to prepare for several decades of expenses. With this changing landscape, Americans have been anticipating a less-than-comfortable retirement consistently since 2007.
This year, according to a Gallup survey, there are more Americans who think they will have a comfortable retirement than those who think they won’t. Fifty percent reported expecting to have enough money to retire comfortably, with 45 percent who said they would not.
Confidence is highest among younger Americans. Fifty-two percent in the 18-29 age group and 51 percent in the 30-49 age group are positive about having enough money. In contrast, 48 percent of those closest to retirement, ages 50-64, say they will not have enough money.
What are you doing to prepare for retirement? Despite a changing environment, there are ways to prepare that can help you feel confident about retirement. It takes planning and some self-control, but if you make the decision now and automate some of the steps, it gets easier.
Here are some resources, and be sure to come back for upcoming articles about how you can prepare for retirement!
• Browse our archives for more retirement tips.
Bank of American Fork is, once again, reaching out to its community by opening an account in behalf of the Westlake Marching Band to get students to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Day parade in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7. The bank will match up to $20,000 in donations made to the account, making a potential $40,000 contribution towards the student fees to participate in the parade.
Executives at Bank of American Fork felt this opportunity for the Westlake Marching Band to participate in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Day parade should not be missed and are calling on the community to help.
“The Westlake Marching Band has been chosen to participate in a historical event because of their exceptional talent and hard work,” said Richard Beard, president of Bank of American Fork. “To think that they would have to miss out on such an opportunity is unfortunate, and we couldn’t let that happen. At Bank of American Fork, we know it’s important to support the communities that support us.”
Though each of the 140 students has committed almost $1000, they are seeking sources for the additional funds. Bank of American Fork is asking community members to step up and donate so the bank can make the maximum $20,000 matching contribution.
Bank of American Fork is proud to sponsor its communities and proud to be a part of a community willing to help. Earlier this year, the community stepped up and raised funds for drug-sniffing canines for the American Fork Police Department, through a similar donation-matching program.
Donations can be made at any of the bank’s 14 branch locations through September 30. Donations are tax-deductible.