Seven Tips for Avoiding Online Fraud

The weather turns colder and the days grow shorter during this spooky time of year, but it’s not the ghosts and ghouls you should fear. The real danger arises from the hackers, crackers, and cyber punks who want to get past your firewall and gain access to your personal information. That’s why the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) is promoting National Cybersecurity Awareness Month this October.

Cyber attacks are becoming more complex and common. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2016, cyber victims lost $1.3 billion from scams initiated through the web.

CyberAware_DataBreach

The world wide web doesn’t have to be scary. Just follow these tips to help keep your information safe online:

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up-to-date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Create complic@t3d passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Follow these guidelines when creating new passwords for better protection.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – as well as to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, your mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public wi-fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

More information on Cybersecurity Awareness Month and additional tips on monitoring your personal information on the web are available from Stay Safe Online at https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/. Limit your fears to ghosts this Halloween and stay protected on the web.

Email NBA President & CEO Richard J. Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

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NBA Strategic Plan Now Underway

While traveling across Interstate 80 recently, I spent some time reflecting upon the very first, boxy cell phone I owned in roughly 1994. This heavy device offered questionable quality and service, but it was very cool. Clearly, times and technology have changed! Today, our lives are driven by smart phones and new technologies—email, text messaging, calendars, contacts, internet searches, directions, movies, entertainment, etc. No one industry has been impacted more dramatically by changes in technology and resulting consumer preferences than banking and financial services. These rapid technological advances were one factor that led your NBA Board of Directors to embark upon a strategic planning process in late 2016.

At the July meeting, the NBA Board accepted the final strategic planning document and recommendations from Financial Shares Corp. (FSC). The plan was developed following a variety of member surveys; board retreats; member, nonmember, and staff interviews; and a thorough data review.

The plan outlined four primary strategic goals. Within these goals, the plan identified 55-plus strategic action steps. The board and staff analyzed these specific implementation steps and settled on a list of eight to 12 priorities for the coming year. A complete copy of the plan can be found on the NBA website at http://bit.ly/NBAStrategicPlan. Following is listing of the four primary goals along with a sampling of action steps within each category.

Goal #1:  Increase Organizational Efficiency

a. Consolidate accounting functions between the NBA and NBISCO 2017-2018
b. Conduct a thorough financial review of all NBISCO and NBA educational offerings 2017-2018
c. Finalize VEBA online enrollment 2018
d. Evaluate offering NBA/NBISCO/VEBA programs to associate members and preferred vendors 2017-2018
e. Solicit outside experts to review and offer strategies for VEBA to better navigate the changing healthcare marketplace 2017-2018

Goal #2:  Enhance Organizational Effectiveness

a. Develop a formal social media strategy 2017-2018
b. Engage next generation (young) bankers in making school presentations and hosting peer group meetings 2018
c. Craft formal succession plans for key NBA staff and the lobbying team 2017-2018
d. Extend the length of NBA Board member terms 2018
e. Conduct a member dues review to assure consistency in the marketplace 2018-2019

Goal #3:  Improve Advocacy & Industry Promotion

a. Initiate a candidate school for Nebraskans seeking local and state elected office 2018-2019
b. Host a Young Bankers of Nebraska (YBON) day at the Nebraska Capitol 2018
c. Develop targeted marketing/promotional efforts to showcase the importance of Nebraska banks and careers in banking 2017-2019
d. Lead a statewide discussion/strategy about improving financial literacy 2018-2019
e. Increase effectiveness of banking internship programs at all banks and extend internship matchmaking to all higher education institutions 2018-2019

Goal #4:  Pursue Growth in a Disciplined Manner

a. Conduct research/survey member institutions about specific business needs to support new preferred vendors and services 2017-2019
b. Meet with large-member institutions to discuss collaboration on education and training opportunities 2017-2018
c. Continually evaluate products and services that assist members with the talent recruitment and development process 2017-2019
d. Help growing member institutions meet CRA-related requirements (i.e., SBIC, financial literacy) 2018-2019
e. Identify specific product offerings to expand to partnerships with other state bankers associations 2019

While this list is not a comprehensive recount of the specific tactics outlined by FSC, it offers you a flavor of the functions that the board, staff, and various volunteers will focus their time and talents in the coming years. In cooperation with staff members, we have already initiated plans to address the more short-term strategies contained in the plan.

The goal in undertaking this planning process was to assure a sustainable and successful trade association that meets the needs of our extraordinary member banks and also helps to grow the banking industry in Nebraska. If you have questions about the strategic plan or wish to discuss the implementation strategy, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

A Solid Finish to a Strong Year

Thank you to those of you who attended the recent 2017 NBA Annual Convention held at the La Vista Conference Center. This year’s convention included outstanding speakers, special recognition of our many volunteer banks and bankers, time for both personal and professional networking, as well as an annual update on the activities and financial position of your NBA.

2017 NBA Convention Theme

Debra Jasper, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Mindset Digital, delivered our keynote presentation highlighting important strategies necessary to lead in today’s social media driven world. Other presenters discussed the role of the media in our turbulent political world, strategies for making dreams come true, and lessons on surviving in difficult situations. Dr. Nathan Kauffman, assistant vice president and Omaha branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, discussed the current agricultural marketplace and his thoughts about the coming farm season. George Morvis, founder and CEO of Hinsdale, Ill.-based Financial Shares Corp., provided attendees with an update on the NBA’s strategic planning initiative (more to follow next month).

One of my primary responsibilities during the convention is to offer an annual organizational overview of the NBA and to review the association’s financial position. Following are a few of the highlights. The full NBA Annual Report can be found at http://bit.ly/NBAAnnualReport16-17.

  • From year-end 2010 to 2016, the number of bank and savings institution charters in Nebraska decreased from 224 to 182, an 18.76 percent decrease.
  • Total bank employment in Nebraska on Dec. 31, 2016, was 15,075, a substantial increase from 13,102 employees in 2010.
  • Total NBA membership is 187 commercial banks and savings institutions. The largest concentration in membership is those institutions having between $101 million and $500 million in deposits (80 banks, 43 percent of the total).
  • Recent legislative successes included passage of LB 140, which represents a yearlong effort to modernize the state’s banking code. Included within this adopted legislation are provisions to allow state-chartered banks to opt out of the executive officer’s license requirement.
  • The NBA NExt Generation Housing Task Force has facilitated a dialogue across the state about the importance of building new workforce housing in our rural communities. Several key pieces of state legislation were crafted and adopted to support this important mission.
  • Last year, the NBA hosted 43 in-person education and training programs, representing 4,245 registrants.
  • The NBA, through various efforts, contributed approximately $175,000 in scholarships and support for our state’s higher education institutions.
  • During the past year, NBA bankers touched 27,926 Nebraskans through their financial literacy education training efforts.
  • NBA leadership participated in 45 state and local media interviews.
  • The NBA’s Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) provides reasonably priced, predictable health care coverage to 4,500-plus bankers, representing more than 10,900 covered lives.
  • Thanks to continued strong member financial support and product utilization, along with a focus on reasonable cost control, both the NBA and NBISCO finished the recently completed fiscal year on very solid footing. Following is a brief look at the combined estimated year-end numbers:

EndYear_Chart

Finally, thanks to the many bank employees/volunteers who were recognized for their achievements during the NBA Annual Convention. Your efforts in supporting BankPAC, financial literacy, and NBA committee work are essential to strengthening our communities and the banking sector throughout our state.

Richard J. Baier is president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Founded in 1890, the NBA is the voice of Nebraska’s $76 billion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional, and large banks that together employ more than 15,000 people, safeguard almost $59 billion in deposits, and extend more than $57 billion in loans, all within the state of Nebraska. For more information, contact Baier at (402) 474-1555 or richard.baier@nebankers.org.

NBA Leaders Serve Nebraska

As I contemplated my thoughts for this month’s blog post, I suddenly found myself choosing between several relevant topics. Rather than choose, I decided to address a couple of them in short fashion, so please excuse my ramblings.

Three Banker-Legislators

I would like to begin by giving a special thanks to Sens. John Stinner, Matt Williams, and Rob Clements for their willingness to set aside their personal lives and businesses to serve the citizens of Nebraska.

Senators

Sens. Stinner and Williams are beginning their third year in the Legislature while Sen. Clements was recently appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to fill an unexpired term. Sens. Stinner and Williams are both past chairmen of the Nebraska Bankers Association, while Sen. Clements previously served on the NBA Government Relations Committee and Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Board of Trustees. Not a week goes by that your NBA team does not receive unsolicited positive comments from other organizations, senators, and statewide elected officials about how fortunate the banking sector is to have such distinguished public servants offering common sense leadership on the many complicated state policy topics.

Sen. Stinner currently chairs the Appropriations Committee. His experience and background in banking and accounting are invaluable as this committee develops strategies for confronting the state’s $900 million shortfall. Sen. Williams serves as vice chairman of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee, in addition to the Health & Human Services and Planning Committees. Both Sens. Stinner and Williams are sponsoring affirmative legislation on behalf of the NBA during the current legislative session addressing various policy issues such as banking regulation, executive officer licensing, and workforce housing. Sen. Clements sits on the Appropriations Committee and is quickly using his banking and actuarial skills to help sort through the many demands placed on the state’s budget.

These gentlemen, by virtue of their positions in the Legislature, also serve as confidants and personal advisers for your NBA lobbying team. Again, special thanks to these individuals for offering their talents and leadership skills to make a difference for the state of Nebraska.

Arrigo Celebrates 30 Years

The success of every business is defined by the quality, skills, initiative, and creativity of the employees who work and represent the business. Your association is no exception! This month, the NBA pays special tribute to one of our key long-term employees, Ron Arrigo, who is celebrating 30 years of service to the NBA and Nebraska’s banking industry. Ron currently serves as NBA senior vice president, with responsibilities for member education and internal operations. In the three years I have worked with him, I have found Ron to be a consummate professional who understands the challenges and opportunities faced by our member institutions. He also is creative and willing to grow and evolve to meet new challenges in today’s ever-evolving world. Please help me in congratulating Ron on reaching this important milestone in his career.

Strategic Planning Update

As you probably know, in early 2016, the NBA Board of Directors contracted with Financial Shares Corp. (FSC) of Hinsdale, Ill., to help facilitate an NBA strategic planning process. To garner member and industry input, FSC has completed personal meetings with NBA leadership and key staff; conducted member surveys; led group planning sessions with the NBA, NBISCO, and VEBA Boards, NBA Past Chairmen, select Leadership Program alumni, Young Bankers of Nebraska representatives, and NBA staff; and also completed numerous member and non-member interviews. The draft plan was presented to the NBA Board of Directors on March 23 for initial response and input. The final plan will be presented to the NBA membership at the NBA Annual Convention on May 4. Be on the lookout for how the NBA will grow and evolve to help meet the needs of Nebraska’s banking industry into the foreseeable future.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

Seven Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud: NBA Raises Awareness for Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the Nebraska Bankers Association is urging all Nebraskans to take extra precaution when filing their tax return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.

Fraudsters are using very clever tactics to get a hold of your personal information and submit false tax claims. Consumers must be suspicious of any communication from the IRS ¾ through email or text, or social media ¾ that requests personal information, and should keep a watchful eye out for missing W-2s and mail containing sensitive financial information.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year; victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help Nebraskans prevent tax ID fraud, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) is offering the following tips:

  • File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text, or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds, or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or that have been tampered with.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

President’s Message: Recruit & Retain Talent With Help From Your NBA

Every growing and successful entrepreneur and small business owner will tell you that having an excellent staff is key to their success. The same holds true for the banking industry in Nebraska. NBA-member financial institutions have identified workforce development and strategy as a priority for their institutions, particularly as it relates to banks’ ability to successfully recruit and retain talent within their respective organizations.

Surveys completed by NBA members during the association’s Fall Group Meetings in September and October, as well as additional interviews conducted by the NBA’s strategic planning consultant, clearly reflect the level of member concern regarding this issue. When asked, “Excluding regulations and regulatory compliance matters, what is the one issue that is negatively affecting your bank,” an overwhelming number of participants responded with “recruiting and retaining qualified employees.” Similarly, when asked, “What areas, if any, do you feel your bank is at a competitive disadvantage,” the top response was “employee recruitment” followed closely by “technology skills” and “talent development.” These responses crossed all geographic and institution size lines.

As your institution develops and refines your workforce strategy, I encourage you to think beyond your traditional efforts and begin to develop a more long-term view. Continue to take advantage of opportunities like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ag Banking Internship program. I also would encourage you to join the NBA at one of the upcoming career fairs scheduled at various university campuses. Likewise, make sure to post your jobs on the Careers section of the NBA website. Website analytics indicate the Careers page continues to be the top landing spot on the NBA site.

To achieve continued success, however, the banking industry must proactively promote the myriad career opportunities available in the banking industry to younger students and also must incorporate new and creative communication channels. Your NBA leadership guest lectures each semester at the banking classes on the UNL and UNO campuses. Unfortunately, most of the students attending this year’s lectures expressed little interest in a banking career. In addition, student attendance at career fairs were below last year’s levels.

To increase interest in the industry, please take time to talk with students at your local middle schools, high schools, and community colleges about banking careers and how banks positively impact the lives of consumers and communities. Consider speaking to local high school classes about the importance of financial literacy or invite students to spend a day at your institution. Engage employees at all levels of your organization to make these types of presentations and to facilitate discussions about the industry. Ask yourself, who on my team has the highest probability of establishing a connection with these young people?

Today’s employees communicate and interact in uniquely different ways than previous generations. Placing a help wanted notice in the newspaper may not generate the success you are seeking. Ask existing employees about how best to promote your organization as a place to work. When posting a job opening, use multiple social media channels. It should go without saying that your business Facebook and LinkedIn sites should have a professional feel and convey your company culture in a modern and attractive layout. Also, don’t overlook untraditional candidates in your local region. One bank president confided in me recently that his staff seeks out potential employees who are currently working at local restaurants and retail establishments who have exceptional customer service skills. Look for talent in unusual places and talk to these individuals about opportunities within the banking industry.

Finally, don’t neglect the opportunity to train and grow your existing staff. The knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics that define a successful employee often may be learned. The NBA offers a wide variety of educational and training programs to foster the professional growth of bankers, including the Young Bankers of Nebraska (YBON) Conference, the NBA Leadership Program, and numerous other conferences, workshops, and webinars. We also work closely with the KBA/NBA Schools of Banking as well as the Graduate Schools of Banking at both Colorado and Wisconsin. The NBA currently has scholarship opportunities available for these programs. It is never too late to increase the knowledge base of your future leaders!

As the NBA works through our strategic planning process, we will continue to evaluate ways in which the Nebraska Bankers Association can support and improve your efforts to attract and retain the next generation workforce.

Richard J. Baier is president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Founded in 1890, the NBA is the voice of Nebraska’s $74 billion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional, and large banks that together employ nearly 15,000 people, safeguard almost $57 billion in deposits, and extend more than $55 billion in loans, all within the state of Nebraska. For more information, contact Richard at (402) 474-1555 or richard.baier@nebankers.org.

Food for Thought Following a Divisive Election

2016-electionLike many of you political junkies, I slumped into bed about 3:00 a.m. on the morning following our turbulent, unpredictable, and unconventional national elections. This election cycle and the subsequent outcomes serve as intriguing political fodder for the media talk shows, political science geeks, and election historians. They also will offer educational opportunities for future generations of students in our country to study elections and related social sciences.

Clearly, the American electorate is, and has been for several election cycles, actively seeking change and willing to go against traditional logic and acceptable norms. Our challenge as representatives of the banking sector is to understand both the direct and subtle messages the public is sending about the status of our country and our future direction. More specifically, how will these messages influence and impact the way banks serve and support their customers?

One of the best election analyses I’ve reviewed was written by Patrick Caddell who is a Democratic pollster and a Fox News contributor. Interestingly, Caddell’s analysis was written prior to the election and focused on the greatest surprise of this election: “The uprising of the American people.” Caddell argues in his analysis that the public has started a revolt that will have long-term consequences for our country. Specifically, he argues that support for non-traditional candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump evolved from the public’s growing frustration with the status quo. This was evidenced by numerous pre-election polls that suggested our country is on the wrong track. There also seems to be a growing alienation of the current political system within our country.

To substantiate Caddell’s arguments, he offers a wealth of recent survey data generated prior to the election. Following are a couple of these responses that clearly have relevance:

  • We need to restore what we really believe in—real democracy by the people and real free enterprise. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
  • Most politicians really care about people like me. AGREE = 25%; DISAGREE = 69%
  • The country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other powerful money interests for their own gain at the expense of the American people. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%

Clearly, one can speculate about the thought process behind these responses. However, what I was able to take away from much of this dialogue bodes well for the future of the banking industry. First, Americans understand and are committed to free enterprise. This is good news! Second, bankers truly do care about their customers and their communities. Again, this is good news for banking. Finally, our Nebraska banks are focused on helping our fellow Nebraskans finance their dreams and grow their personal wealth.

As Nebraska bankers look to the future, we should gain comfort knowing our customers are our priority and that we can directly impact their personal growth and success!

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.