Tips for interacting with your bank during COVID-19

By Sam Huntington and Stan Koopmans, State Bank of Cross Plains

The most important thing for you to know is that your bank is still open for business with staff available to help you. In addition to online and mobile banking tools, real people are available to help by phone and email, and drive-ups are still open in most locations.

Get Financial Assistance

It’s more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open with your financial partners.

Stan Koopmans photo
Stan Koopmans
Sam Huntington photo
Sam Huntington

Thanks to years of experience working with businesses in various industries, your banker may be able to serve as a sounding board as your company considers ways to manage cash flow, deal with existing debt, open a line of credit, or help you navigate resources for funding or applying for stimulus programs.

If your bank offers Treasury Management services, ask for a needs assessment to determine if there are ways you could save money, limit fees, protect accounts, or improve efficiencies that could make your business function better in both the short-term and long-term.

Your banker may also be able to defer payments or interest on existing loans. Be sure to understand what deferring payments means in your situation, since each loan program may have different options available. Banks are obligated to follow the laws governing specific loan programs.

Increase Efficiency by Using Online and Mobile Banking

This can be a tremendous opportunity to become proficient with the tools your bank offers to help manage your accounts. Check your bank’s website for instructions and demos explaining online account access by desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile devices. For example:

  • If you have never had the time to become familiar with online banking, this might be the time to dig up your username and password and give it a try. Your bank can help you get logged in and walk you through the process.
  • Most banks have a mobile application you can download to view your accounts in real time, deposit checks using the phone’s camera, and even authorize ACH transactions.

One positive outcome in the current situation can be that businesses become more adept at using these tools and learn ways to become more efficient far into the future.

Avoid Fraud and Scams

One unfortunate result of the current environment is an increase in fraud attempts. It’s important to take precautions, such as:

  • looking at your bank account every day
  • viewing check images
  • looking at ACH debits carefully
  • being vigilant about email scams

In many cases, the window of opportunity to dispute an item is as short as 24 hours, so call your bank immediately if something looks suspicious.

Positive Pay and ACH Filter/Block are services most banks offer to automate the process of looking for unusual activity. Both rely on a system of identifying transactions that were not pre-authorized and giving the account holder an opportunity to verify items presented for payment.

Unfortunately, the most common entry for fraud is still your email system. Take extra care to educate and remind employees about fraudulent emails that are designed to have the recipient open an attachment or click on a link, resulting in malware invisibly downloading to the user’s computer system. Right now, millions of COVOD-19 emails are being sent, such as:

  • emails with a realistic looking UPS package tracking information
  • fake emails from the HR department about allowed sick leave under coronavirus
  • emails with the subject line referencing employee layoffs
  • fraudulent emails using names from people within the organization

Some things your employees can do to help identify scams include:

  • Double check the sender’s actual email address (not just name in the FROM area) to verify the sender. Oftentimes, a scam will appear to come from a specific employee, but the actual email address is clearly different.
  • Establish a company-wide safe word for clicking on links. Employees should not click on a link or open an attachment without that safe word in the subject or body of the email.
  • If in doubt, access information through your typical channels. For instance, log into your intranet for news rather than click on a link. Get to your credit card or bank information though their website versus an email link, etc.

With many people working at home and doing double duty with childcare or other distractions, there is an increased possibility of people clicking through emails. It’s just a game of numbers, as scammers find it worthwhile if they get one or two people out of a 1,000 to download malware.

Credit Card Security

Keep an eye on your credit card statements and learn how to check your online statement to potentially catch fraudulent charges as soon as possible. Make sure your credit card information is up-to-date and consider setting up automatic payments and electronic billing to reduce the chance of mail fraud.

Anticipated Trends and Things To Do Now

Current trends happening during the existing environment include:

  • Expect construction delays and increased project costs with permits, supply chain issues, inspections, labor safety requirements, etc.
  • Regulators are encouraging banks to work with borrowers since financial issues were not caused by underlying credit problems or poor business practices.
  • Many banks are offering 3-6 month deferrals without fees.
  • Banks may tighten underwriting on new projects until the economy improves.
  • Banks and credit cards may temporarily cease credit reporting so that missed or late payments don’t negatively affect your credit score.
  • Successful work-from-home practices may have future long-term impacts on the need for office space.

Some things your business can do immediately to improve your financial situation:

  • Talk to your lender.
  • Plan for a 3-month disruption in your cash flow.
  • Prepare necessary information for federal assistance so you can quickly respond to available programs.
  • Don’t panic or draw down lines of credit unnecessarily. Reduce expenses, use existing inventory creatively, and capitalize on available income first.

Again, your banker is busy, but they want to answer your questions and partner with you through this pandemic.

 

Sam Huntington is Vice President-Treasury Management Director at State Bank of Cross Plains. Stan Koopmans is Senior Vice President-Commercial Relationship Manager. An ABC member, State Bank of Cross Plains is a $1.3 billion institution, offering a full range of business and personal financial services including business, real estate, and consumer lending, as well as wealth management and financial advisory services. SBCP has 15 locations in Dane, Rock, and Green Counties. Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender.

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