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The technological ‘revolution’ of banking

Why e-banking is the best thing since sliced bread

By Lori Putnam

Those us who have paid attention over the last 25 years have witnessed the emergence of technology at what can best be described as warp speed. If you really think about it, the technology of today was probably obsolete before you evenpurchased it!

In the world of financial services, the technology boom has created the ability for bank customers to obtain immediate and accurate banking information, real-time and online. As e-banking technology began to emerge and improve, the initial fear that online banking would replace branch banking was quickly replaced with a desire to offer as much information to our customers through online portals as possible.

When you can sit at the computer at midnight in your pajamas and learn about the products and services your bank offers, it’s a better educational experience than sitting at your banker’s desk, trying to decipher “bank-speak” and knowing there are four people behind you waiting to be seen. This doesn’t mean you never need to go into a branch, but many things that used to be done in branches can now be done electronically, which can save you time and money.

Extended services

Most people log onto their bank’s website to balance their checkbook ledgers. They’ll look at their current or recent activity, maybe look at the detail of some checks they forgot to enter into their ledgers, transfer money to or from savings, and originate electronic bill payments through their bank’s online bill payment site. But e-banking is much more robust than just paying and receiving.

Need to stop payment on a check? Chances are you can initiate a stop payment from your bank’s website. Got a kid in college who needs money? You can initiate a payment to them through your bank’s online bill payment system. In fact, most banks’ online bill payment products can not only accommodate payments to credit cards and utilities, they can now accommodate payments originated electronically to individuals, and business owners wishing to make electronic payments can attach invoices and even apply discounts to electronic bill payments.

E-banking also extends to the lending arena, with a variety of information available through not only your bank’s website, but the links they most likely provide. These links can include calculators for loan payments so you can determine how much a payment will be and how long it will take to repay, as well as detailed information on the variety of loan products available to you, whether you are a business or an individual.

Many financial institutions offer online loan and credit card applications, and even current rate information for their most standard loan products. The e-banking application is virtually the same as what you would complete in a branch office; in fact, many banks no longer use paper applications, but instead originate in-branch loan and credit card applications through their internal electronic systems.

What about investing and retirement? Your bank’s website most likely offers a retirement planner so you can determine how much to invest and at the current rate of savings, how much you will have when you retire, and even asset allocation information so you know how to build a more balanced investment portfolio.

Want to keep up with the current news on your bank? Check out the website. News and information about your bank is readily available for your reading pleasure.  Many banks also offer the option to begin the new account opening process through their electronic sites, and some offer “switch kits,” which can help ease the pain of establishing yourself at a new financial institution by making the process a little more manageable.

New services

With the movement toward “paperless” transactions, many banks offer a terrific service, generically referred to as Remote Deposit. Remote Deposit allows business customers the ability to make non-cash deposits through a secure website using a desktop scanner.

Users simply scan their checks to be deposited, correct any errors that may occur during scanning, and then submit the deposit for practically immediate credit to their bank accounts. The images of the items are stored electronically and can be viewed anytime. While most banks do have processing cut-offs for credit for remotely deposited items, the system itself is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; deposits can be originated and transmitted to the bank and images of deposited items can be reviewed anytime, day or night.

Along these same lines, electronic bank statements, or e-statements, are gaining popularity as “go green” becomes the rallying cry of reducing paper waste. Statements are delivered through a secure system and retrieved at your convenience. All e-statements include transaction details, and most e-statements include the images of the items transacted on your account.

Wire transfer remains one of the most popular methods of moving funds swiftly between banks, and with the ability to originate wire transfers through electronic banking, customers can save a trip to the bank and even gain a reduction in the cost of wiring funds. Payments initiated or received through the Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) are the preferred method of handling payroll and expense reimbursements. Most banks even offer a “self-service” ACH product, which allows the end user to process ACH payments without the use of an intermediary, such as a payroll company.

Another e-banking service gaining popularity is Positive Pay. Check fraud is one of the most common reports of fraud among businesses. Positive Pay offers one of the most effective methods of deterring check fraud by allowing users to compare the checks they have issued against those being presented for payment on any given day.

Items that do not match the checkbook register raise a red flag and the user must decide if these exceptions represent fraudulent activity. This gives the business owner control over the items being presented for payment against their account, which in turn helps control costs by minimizing the risk of check fraud.

Your e-banking site also offers a wealth of information regarding FDIC insurance, the bank’s officers and directors, identity theft and fraud protection, and more. Many bank sites offer a tool that allows you to pull all financial information into one site for money management purposes. There’s even a good chance that if you visit your bank today, there are e-banking kiosks available for your use, right at the branch site! And we never even discussed the variety of electronic functions that are available now through ATMs and mobile banking. That’s best saved for another article.

It’s probably safe to say that advances in technology have not quite given us the time or cost savings that jet-packing to work or traveling by transporter might have offered us. But taking advantage of the many products and services offered by your financial institution’s e-banking site can certainly make it easy and convenient for you to manage your daily financial needs.

Lori Putnam is vice president, commercial deposit manager, and cash management officer for FirstAtlantic Bank. She can be contacted at 904-446-2567 or lputnam@bankfirstatlantic.com.


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