by Alysse Robin
It’s becoming common knowledge that spending money locally supports the entire community that you live in; the same logic stands for saving money locally. That is, local banking is a growing trend that is a vital part of building a sustainable community. Whether a credit union or a community bank, people are realizing the importance of choosing a local financial institution for your checking, savings, mortgage or other loans.
A soaring advantage of local banking is that money deposited by people in our region is generally loaned back within our community, not to citizens or businesses in other states and countries. It helps our farmers, local businesses and homeowners throughout the region where its depositors live and work, and prevents our local dollars from heading to Wall Street or only benefiting big corporations in other states. Local banks understand that the vitality and health of the community as a whole is related to the fiscal health of an individual. A local bank can be thought of as a neighbor helping neighbors, a great basis for any community!
It makes sense, as a local business itself; a community bank has a vested interest in seeing the entire community succeed and have wealth. Big banks invest heavily in speculative trading, which doesn’t benefit local people and could be more risk prone. In the new economy, having banks make investments that support the many facets of our community is more important than ever.
As institutions that are committed to the betterment of the community, local banks give time, services and money to support the needs of the community. One way they support local causes is through financial contributions to nonprofits that provide services to enhance the lives of the people in our community. According to Ulster Savings Bank, which has given out over six million dollars since 2001 through its Charitable Foundation and Bank Giving Program, “Our financial contributions receive the most publicity, but we take great pride in the countless hours of volunteerism by our employees. What makes us a truly well-respected community bank is not due to a particular program but to our overall depth and scope of community involvement on a day-to-day basis.”
Another advantage is that local banks also offer the same services as large corporate banks, but often with better credit card and loan terms, lower fees, and better interest rates on savings. These services include ATMs, Online Banking, Electronic Bill Pay, debit cards, and more. Since they are smaller, they are more readily able to adapt to the community’s needs and direction—including technology demands. For example, at this time, our local Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union is the only financial institution in the nation to offer a 24/7 drive-thru teller service at its branches via video portal to its central contact center. People can drive right up and make transactions via video portal and scanner any time of day, at the convenience of the customer.
Local banks have local character. They are run by people who are committed to, and often very active in the community. Local bank employees come from the community and many serve on local boards, or participate in assisting the fundraising efforts of organizations, raising funds for hurricane victims, or helping at local food kitchens. They know the community deeply and understand both its financial opportunities as well as its needs. You can meet with them face to face. They can make decisions based on more than just credit score—on the relationships and understanding of the community that they have helped to build.
Banks are a part of the critical fabric of our community. The Hudson Valley is rich with vibrant local businesses and talented entrepreneurs who are busily creating their own future, moving forward on a dream. The banks are a critical part of these businesses. An individual’s banking choices impact a lot more than just his or her wallet—they impact the businesses and practices that those banks invest in.
Choose wisely, choose local.