A Message From Our President & COO

by Robert Kunisch 17. December 2015

President Rob Kunisch We’re nearing the end of our first full year under new leadership, a pivotal transition for 1st Mariner Bank. As President and COO of the bank, I get to see the evolution up close every day. We’ve shown very strong growth throughout the year, and we are proud to have the opportunity to report back on this positive progress to our customers and employees.

Excellence Across the Board

We are showing robust growth in commercial and industrial loans, as well as with our commercial and consumer mortgage offerings. Almost across the board, our loan and deposit growth is up. Our numbers are projecting a very strong finish for 2015.

In every department, our employees are working incredibly hard to make 1st Mariner’s continued growth a reality. Everyone is getting more comfortable with their role, and finding out how they can contribute to make 1st Mariner Bank better every day. We’ve seen and felt the atmosphere evolve into a more sales-focused environment, with more proactive cross-sales and referral goals.

We’ve seen an outstanding number of new commercial relationships. Most importantly this year, we’re seeing traction from the products and innovation we’ve been working so hard to develop. We work to foster the best banking practices so all of our customers have a positive, personal experience with 1st Mariner Bank.

All About Customer Experience

As a community bank, everything that we do is geared towards enhancing the customer experience. Our philosophy is to prove ourselves to our customers through actions, not just words. We strive to provide the best customer service and the best products, because that’s what our customers deserve.

The Random Acts of Kindness we’ve been doing all year in celebration of the Bank’s 20th anniversary has been a great success, for both the people we have been helping and 1st Mariner Bank internally. One of our favorite Acts was when Joe Flacco visited with a group of kids from the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Playing and interacting with the children was just as rewarding for Joe and our team as it was for the kids!

Connecting with the people of Baltimore in this way reinforces the Bank’s identity as a community center. When the name ‘1st Mariner Bank’ is heard in neighborhoods around Baltimore, we want people to feel a sense of trust, one that we earn through actions – not just words.

Making Improvements for 2016

This past year, we’ve identified issues, improved operating efficiencies in a number of departments and came together as a strong unit to keep the Bank moving forward. When we decided to become a part of this Bank, we saw it as an opportunity to grow. We were able to seize the opportunity and make proactive decisions to continue to build a high value institution for Baltimore.

One big improvement we have made and will continue to make in 2016 is refining our corporate culture. We think our employees have come a long way and have shown true commitment to being brand ambassadors for the newly restored image of the Bank. We’re communicating better internally and determined to keep momentum building off momentum – never becoming stale with the Bank’s identity or innovation.

With the momentum we’ve all worked so hard to keep up, we’re confident that we are heading into 2016 with full speed ahead. Many thought that we couldn’t achieve what we have in 3 years, and we did it in 18 months. We’ve earned a spot on a competitive field and are in a solid position to grow organically. Our strong finish from 2015 will catapult us into next year and give us a solid foundation to continue what we have started. The stronger you finish, the better you can be prepared for what comes next.

Holiday Scams To Look Out For

by Jhonell Campbell 14. December 2015

Below are excerpts from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau article warning about holiday scams.

Consumers are targeted each day but scammers seem to increase their efforts during the holiday season. In an effort to protect consumers, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shares ways to avoid holiday scams:

  • If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. 
  • Buy from reputable manufacturers and stores.
  • Research online sellers before purchasing. The comments of people who have made previous purchases may be especially helpful.
  • Don't buy anything advertised via bulk email ("SPAM").
  • Be suspicious of websites that do not provide a toll-free contact number.
  • When submitting financial information online, verify that the website is secure and that payments are submitted to website addresses beginning with "https://."

Holiday scams targeting older consumers:

  • Before offering your help to someone who claims to be a grandchild (or other relative/friend), be sure to telephone your family to verify that the emergency or urgent request is genuine.
  • Beware of a caller who insists on secrecy. Never allow anyone to discourage you from seeking information, verification, support and counsel from family members, friends or trusted advisers prior to making any financial transaction.
  • Make sure your charitable donations benefit the people and organizations you want to help. If a caller claims to be from an established organization such as a hospital, charity, or law enforcement agency, look up the number of the organization independently and verify the claim before sending money.
  • If you have received a letter or call that purports to be from the IRS stating that you owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 for information.

How the Fed Could Revive the Market for ARMs

by Admin 4. December 2015

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in National Mortgage News by Brad Finkelstein

December marks seven years since the Federal Open Market Committee cut the target for its benchmark federal funds rate to nearly zero.

The Great Recession technically ended six months after the Federal Reserve's dramatic interest rate cut, though to say the subsequent recovery has moved at a glacial pace would be an understatement.

But as a meaningful economic recovery appears to be finally taking hold, all eyes are on the FOMC amid speculation that it may soon raise rates. That watershed moment, whenever it comes, will necessitate a re-evaluation of many aspects of the "new normal" that have taken hold since the Great Recession.

Case in point: the adjustable-rate mortgage. The product, popular during periods of rising interest rates and home prices — and vilified for contributing to excesses that precipitated the housing crisis — has fallen out of favor among lenders and consumers.

But ARMs may soon be ready for a revival, albeit with tighter regulatory restrictions and a re-calibration of longstanding assumptions about who the product is best suited to serve.

Lenders are already seeing the beginnings of renewed interest in ARM loans. Even exotic variants, like the option-ARM, may have a role to play with the right consumer. "I believe adjustables will make a comeback. "The reason they haven't as of yet is because fixed rates have been so low for so long," said Dave Jacobin, president of 1st Mariner Mortgage, a subsidiary of Baltimore's 1st Mariner Bank.

When FRMs do hit 5%, Jacobin predicts ARM volume will pick up, "but nothing dramatic." Others agree. "But there is a market for ARMs that makes sense," he added.

For example, if a borrower intends to stay in a house for less than five years, a 5/1 ARM offers a lower rate than a 30-year loan and the rate won't adjust before the borrower is ready to move. Even if the borrower stays in the home longer than planned, there are caps on how much the interest rate can increase.

Now, as a new market for ARM loans may be emerging, lenders say they're mindful of the lessons learned during the crisis. "I want to make sure that any borrower I put into that product fully understood the ramifications of the upside and the downside," Jacobin said. Education is the key to bringing the ARM loan back to the mainstream, said Jacobin.

Salespeople need "to make sure they explain every nuance and detail to their customers, describe the worst-case scenario, and make sure the borrower is comfortable with it, and it is not just something where they can get them into a property so they can get a commission."

"It's much more important — and it will benefit them — they make sure the adjustable-rate mortgage products are given to people who it makes sense for them to take it. Frankly that will lead them to a better reputation, more referrals and everybody wins," he added.

Read the full article at NationalMortgageNews.com.

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