Community

ChoiceOne Bank Receives National Community Bank Award

ChoiceOne Bank is honored to receive the 2017 National Community Bank Service Award, which celebrates the outstanding and innovative volunteer efforts of the nation’s community banks. The Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) presented ChoiceOne Bank with this award for broadening access to mainstream financial services for underserved communities, exemplifying what it means to be a community bank.

“I am very thankful for our hard-working bankers who made this Award possible,” said ChoiceOne Bank President and CEO Kelly Potes. “We won this award because we wanted to help people!”

Helping Unbanked and Spanish Speaking Consumers
ChoiceOne Bank is a community bank in West Michigan in the heart of agricultural and farming communities. The Bank serves hundreds of locally owned farms that grow apples, blueberries, peaches, among other crops. Many farms employ seasonal help from Central and South America, resulting in an influx of unbanked and Spanish speaking consumers. These communities also have many Spanish speaking permanent residents struggling to get service in Spanish.

Local farmers also struggle to find fast ways to pay their employees as a majority do not have U.S. bank accounts. A common way to pay employees is with paper checks, often cashed at check cashing facilities. Unfortunately, this results in employees keeping large sums of cash with them compromising their safety when crossing the border returning home.

ChoiceOne Bank saw a need to better serve these employees, provide peace of mind to local farmers, and educate consumers that are often taken advantage of because of their language barrier or lack of a bank account. ChoiceOne Bank worked to provide:
• Safe, secure ways for employees to be paid with minimal fees
• Financial education delivered in Spanish
• Spanish speaking customer service

“We had a committee that took the time to learn more about the customers in our communities and how to better serve them,” said Potes. “This award truly highlights our commitment to our customers, local small businesses and neighbors. We are honored to receive this award.”


Employees of ChoiceOne Bank, Sparta, Mich., attend a nine-week conversational Spanish Class in order to better serve Spanish-speaking customers. 


Safe, Secure Ways to Pay Employees with Minimal Fees

ChoiceOne Bank saw a need for an alternative to check cashing facilities charging ridiculous fees to cash checks and send money home. To address this, the Bank now provides direct deposit allowing the employee to withdraw smaller amounts. Employees are offered a free account with customized debit cards allowing withdrawals from Central and South America. As an alternative to a checking account, ChoiceOne partnered with a prepaid payroll card provider and negotiated reduced fees and waives all ChoiceOne ATM withdrawal fees for the cards. Each year, ChoiceOne processes over 90,000 payroll checks. Moving to an electronic payroll system will save time and money for the employees and farmers.

Financial Education in Spanish
ChoiceOne provides financial education in Spanish so these consumers can learn about their banking options and eliminate misconceptions about banking. The ChoiceOne bi-lingual staff has performed dozens of presentations after hours, at farm locations and other small businesses to educate hundreds of employees about managing their money; explaining checking accounts, training on mobile banking, and addressing questions.

Spanish Speaking Customer Service
ChoiceOne established a Spanish Speaking Customer Service Line, dubbed the “Hola! Linea.” This is a direct number that rings bilingual employees and is answered in Spanish. It is available to customers that prefer speaking Spanish and used when a bilingual banker is unavailable.

ChoiceOne sponsored a 9-week class after hours where 20 ChoiceOne employees learned Spanish and learned about cultural diversity. See local news article: http://www.grbj.com/articles/85303-overcoming-the-language-barrier. ChoiceOne also underwent upgrades to their voice banking and consumer loan applications to offer a Spanish option.

Serving the Underserved
ChoiceOne Bank invested significant time and money developing ways to better serve a segment of the local community which is typically underserved. “This was a Bank-wide effort for over a year and hundreds of hours,” said Potes. “Many farms signed up for direct deposit, with the potential to reach hundreds of employees during the summer. These options and programs created a Bank-wide awareness of diversity within communities and is a great example of our dedication to making ALL customers feel welcome.”

For more information on the Bank-wide efforts, see the article “2017 ICBA National Community Bank Service Award Honorees” published by the ICBA in their IB Independent Banker September issue https://www.choiceone.com/ICBA-award.
“Community service and volunteerism lie at the heart of community banking—it’s what community banks do; it’s what community banking is about,” said ICBA President and CEO Camden R. Fine. “It’s a privilege to honor this year’s award recipients, whose programs exemplify the community banking industry’s philanthropic spirit and can-do attitude, even amid challenging circumstances.”

About ICBA
The Independent Community Bankers of America®, the nation’s voice for more than 5,800 community banks of all sizes and charter types, is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and its membership through effective advocacy, best-in-class education and high-quality products and services. For more information, visit ICBA’s website at www.icba.org.

About ChoiceOne Bank
ChoiceOne Bank is a full service financial institution with offices in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Newaygo Counties. Member FDIC. ChoiceOne Bank offers insurance and investment products through its subsidiary, ChoiceOne Insurance Agencies, Inc. ChoiceOne Financial Services, Inc. is the holding company headquartered in Sparta, Michigan and the parent corporation of ChoiceOne Bank. The company is publicly traded and is available on the OTCBB under the symbol “COFS.” For more information on the bank, please visit ChoiceOne’s website at www.choiceone.com.

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