The Ever-Evolving Landscape of Banking

by Wade Barnes 31. December 2012

Online Bill Payments

When you think of managing your finances, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Do you envision walking into a bank branch to conduct transactions? Or do you immediately think of signing into online or mobile banking? For many people and for most transactions, it’s the latter. Over the past few years, the landscape of financial management, and banking in particular, has changed drastically in that you as the customer are put in control.

According to Serge van Dam, VP of Mobile Solutions at Fiserv1, financial transactions can be broken into three categories: snacking, lunching, and fine dining. Snacking consists of transactions such as transferring funds or checking balances. Lunching includes bill payments and viewing online statements. Fine dining involves conversations with financial advisors, opening trust accounts, or other highly interactive transactions.

We appreciate the various levels of need when it comes to banking, and we work hard to ensure our delivery meets the needs of our customers. While we continue to provide the personal service offered by our branches, we also look to provide electronic services to meet your needs. As our customers know, we went through a conversion to upgrade our services and delivery in October of this past year. While change is never easy and growing pains may be difficult, we did this to set the stage for a more robust delivery moving forward, and we thank everyone for their patience as we’ve been working through this process.

Mobile Banking

Throughout 2012, we enhanced our electronic delivery in many notable ways. In February we launched a branded mobile banking application for both Android and iOS powered devices. Through this application you can check balances, transfer funds, view history, find branches and ATMs, and a recent upgrade offers mobile bill payments as well.

As part of our conversion, we upgraded our online banking platform which sets the stage for a more robust, user friendly interaction. Along with this, we upgraded our Bill Payment system, which now delivers up to 85% of payments electronically. With this upgrade, payments are guaranteed to be delivered by the date you specify, and better yet, the money stays in your account until the merchant receives or deposits the money. 

Popmoney® is a new online offering that delivers person-to-person payments. Using Popmoney® you can initiate a payment to anyone through a text message or an email. This addition is great for sending money to kids in school, repaying a friend for lunch, or sending a gift in place of a check.

Mariner360

Finally, we re-launched Mariner360, our Personal Financial Manager. The new Mariner360 provides a great platform for aggregating accounts across financial institutions to track spending, manage budgets, and set financial goals.

While we’ve made significant enhancements in 2012, we look forward to 2013 as we continue to refine our current delivery and introduce new technology. We will continue to keep you abreast of new technology and improvements to our services through our monthly eNewsletter. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up. We also welcome your feedback and suggestions for future enhancements by emailing our customer service center.

As your community bank, we have the unique opportunity to offer the electronic delivery that has become fundamental in managing finances, but we also haven’t forgotten what it means to welcome you into any of our branches and provide you with friendly, local service. We are grateful for all of our customers and appreciate your loyalty over the years. We look forward to the new year and to continue embracing the ever evolving technology that enhances your banking experience.

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1 Shaw, S., & van Dam, S. (2012). Mobile Financial Services: Snacking, Lunching, Fine Dining. Fiserv Client Conference Spring 2012.

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Money in Your 30s: Manage It, Don't Be Managed by It

by Wade Barnes 4. October 2012

30Like it or not, the days when maybe it was okay to be slightly irresponsible with your money are over. You may have worked a job or two, but now you’re moving into the career years ahead. As you nail down a stable job with a stable income, it’s time to start managing your money so that money doesn’t manage you for the rest of your life. With these simple tips, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Debt

It's time to deleverage. The best way to increase your cash flow is to decrease money going to unnecessary interest charges. Focus on paying off all debt that isn’t tied to a mortgage. Concentrate on the loans with the highest interest rates first, likely those carried by credit cards, then focus on car loans, student loans, and any other non-mortgage related debt. Caution: moving debt between credit cards and other loan types is not deleveraging.

Kick the habit of assuming debt to make purchases. Save money for big purchases so you don’t have to finance these items using credit. That being said, if you get 0% financing for a period of time, don’t hesitate to use this money for free, but be sure the debt is paid in full before the period expires to avoid huge interest charges.

Family

Marriage is the most important event in a person’s life in many ways. When you marry your life to someone, you also marry your finances. This is a great opportunity to meet with a Financial Consultant to consider everything in your financial portfolio from investments to insurance and retirement planning.

If you’re planning to have children, this is also a great time to meet with a Financial Consultant. You’ll want to consider setting up a college savings plan to help cover the cost of education. While nobody likes to think about life insurance, this is a great time to make sure your family is covered in the event that the unthinkable should occur.

Savings

Start building an emergency savings account. It is suggested that you should have at least three months of salary in savings. With this emergency savings account, it will be easier to weather the storm if hard times or unexpected expenses occur.

While it might be hard to consider retirement when you’re in your 30s, there’s no better time than now to start socking away money for life after work. The power of compounding interest really adds up when time is on your side. Consider increasing the percentage of income going towards retirement savings by 1% every year when in your 30s. Use a retirement calculator to get an idea of what it takes to save for your retirement years so you can live comfortably and enjoy the fruit of your laboring years.

In short, when you’re in your 30s, it’s time to make your money work for you so you are starting your adult life with a solid financial footing. By paying off debt, creating a savings plan and addressing insurance and investment options, you’ll be well on the way to enjoying your adult life with responsible financial habits.

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How to Stay Cool when Temperatures are Hot

by Wade Barnes 16. July 2012

Average Baltimore TemperaturesSummer is officially upon us, and with it comes the heat and humidity we know all too well here in Baltimore.  Staying cool when the temperatures are hot can be a costly proposition, but there are a few tips we’d like to share so you don’t have to break the bank.

 

The basics... 

º Blow hot air: By having a fan simply move the air around the house, you’ll actually feel cooler.  Running ceiling fans counter-clockwise, especially in elevated levels in the house, creates an upward draft, bringing the cool air up to help better circulate the efforts of your air conditioner.    

º 78° Rule: We’ve all heard it before - 78° is the magic number.  By keeping your thermostat set at 78°, your home will be comfortable and you won’t overwork your air conditioning unit.    

º Close blinds: By keeping the sunlight out, the rooms won’t heat as quickly and the temperature will remain more stable. 

º Don’t cool unused space: While this may seem intuitive, if you have unused space, there’s no need to keep it at 78°.  Close the air ducts in unused rooms and gain efficiency and comfort in rooms you do use. 

º  Plant trees: Planting trees to help block the summer sun will not only keep the sunlight from coming in through the windows, it will also keep the exterior of your house cool, which means heat won’t penetrate through the walls.  As an added bonus, when autumn comes around, the leaves will fall which will allow the sun to once again brighten your day and heat the house during the winter.

 

The mechanics...

º Air filter: Perhaps the simplest and most inexpensive tip is to replace your air filter every three months.  Allowing air to flow freely will reduce the energy required to run your air conditioning system.  On top of that, the air you’ll breath will be clean, crisp, and refreshing.

º HVAC service: You should have your air conditioning system maintenance performed annually.  By sealing leaks, cleaning ducts, and checking refrigerant levels you can see significant improvements in efficiency and reduction in cost.

º Programmable thermostat: While the 78° rule still applies, if you’re not home during the day or if you can stand it a bit warmer at night, using a programmable thermostat can really impact the bottom line. 

º Consistency: While programmable thermostats are good because they create only slight variations in the temperature difference, turning the air conditioning on and off repetitively is not.  When your system is on, you’re not only cooling the air, you’re cooling the walls, ceilings, floors and everything in-between.  It takes a long time to cool all things solid but once they’re cool, they help keep the air cool too. 

 

The replacement…

If you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns with regards to your air conditioning unit, it might make sense to upgrade.  By installing an Energy Star system, you may qualify for Energy Star tax credits, and you’ll most certainly decrease the cost to cool your home during the summer.  If your system breaks unexpectedly or you need help financing this upgrade, consider using the equity in your home by obtaining a home equity loan or line of credit. 

For more energy saving tips, see Spring Forward with These 5 Energy Saving Tips.

If you’ve decided to beat the heat by getting out of town, be sure read Traveling Tips: keep the costs low and the fun level high.



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