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Are you a small-business owner who’s not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores, (more…)

 

credit scoreGuidewell Financial’s’ “Incredible Edible Credit Score” Has the Answer

Credit scores and reports aren’t just used to determine if consumers qualify for loans and credit cards. They also help determine what interest rate and terms borrowers receive and are increasingly used in decisions by landlords, cell phone companies, utility companies, insurance companies, and employers. Most Americans know that it’s important to have a good credit score, but fewer are fully aware of the factors that affect the score they receive.  To help remedy this situation, nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions has created the “Incredible Edible Credit Score,” a one-minute video that’s informative, tasty and FUN. It shows how your FICO score is calculated. This is the credit score most lenders will use to evaluate your financial standing.

Why not join their virtual pizza party and share the video with your co-workers, family, and friends? In return here are three credit score facts everyone needs to know:

  1.   Credit reports and credit scores are not the same. 

Studies show that many of us don’t know the difference between credit reports and credits scores. To keep them straight, just remember when you were in school: Your credit report and credit score are a lot like the school report card and grades you used to receive.

Like report cards, credit reports provide an overview of your performance, showing how well you manage your finances and credit. Compiled by the three major credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, they each contain a detailed history of your current and past credit accounts and debt, (more…)

Nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions offers 10 tips for saving big on a limited budget.

GuidewellConsumers who have never saved before sometimes worry they won’t be able to make it a habit, especially if they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.  However, small changes in financial choices and lifestyle can lead to tangible savings rewards. To celebrate Financial Literacy Month, nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions (aka Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) shares these tips on how to save a thousand dollars in a single year:

Use direct deposit. This is an effective way to start saving. Here’s how it works – Have paychecks electronically deposited into a checking account.  Before the money goes into checking, have $10 automatically deducted and directly placed in a personal savings account.

Savings = $240/yr or more 

Brown bag it!  Bring lunch from home ($1-3 per meal) instead of dining out at work ($8-15 per meal).

Savings = $1,300/yr or more

Less is more.  Downsizing the family cell phone, cable, or satellite television package is a simple way to put more money in the bank.

Savings = $600/yr or more

Avoid putting the pedal to the metal.  Even in this era of low gas prices, the cost of fuel, oil, tires, and vehicle depreciation averages about 52 cents a mile for consumers who regularly drive to work. To reduce transportation costs, consider carpooling, walking, or biking just two days a month.

Savings =  $288/yr or more

Compare banking options. Paying for checking account services? Shop around and find an account that doesn’t charge monthly fees.

Savings = $120/yr or more

Say “no” to the one armed bandit.  Putting change into the office vending machine is convenient, but it comes at a cost.  Bring snacks and sodas from home instead.

Savings = $100/yr or more 

Stick to in-network ATMS. It’s handy to get cash from on-the-spot ATMs, but the fees really add up. Plan withdrawals so they only take place a ATMs that belong to your bank.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Go local. Rent free books and DVDs from the public library instead of renting or buying them online or at a store.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Do some homework. Comparison shop before purchasing or renewing auto, renters, or homeowners insurance. Also think about increasing the plan deductible.

Savings = $100/yr or more

Practice paycheck power. Employees who get paid bi-weekly receive three paychecks for the month twice a year.  Each time this happens, place the extra paycheck into savings.

Do the math!

Consumers who have never saved before can begin by tracking where their money goes. Before setting up a savings plan, it may also help to get outside budgeting advice and support from a reputable nonprofit agency. Guidewell Financial provides financial counseling and financial coaching in person or by phone. For an appointment or resources, call 1-800-642-2227 or visit the agency website. Small changes made now and carried throughout the year will lead to less stress and greater financial security in 2016.

About Guidewell Financial Solutions

 Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling.  Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01  

Copyright © 2017 Guidewell Financial Solutions.

The Small Business Administration is a great resource for those who are starting or growing a small business. SBA loans offer an alternative to traditional lending, which can be difficult for small businesses. As an SBA-preferred lender, Howard Bank’s expertise can make the process much more streamlined. Here are some things you might not know about an SBA loan.

 

SBA Loans

According to recent studies, less than half of American families live on a budget or keep track of their expenses, and one in three carries a credit card balance from month-to-month. Nonprofit Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.) is working to reverse these trends. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, it offers five financial services to help local residents to take control of their finances. Guidewell

President and CEO Helene Raynaud says, “Sound financial decisions don’t just happen. They are learned and perpetuated through practice. Here at Guidewell Financial, we have a 50-year track record of helping clients gain these skills. We provide them with advice and resources to make better choices and ultimately get ahead.”

The five services that help clients become financially confident and secure are:

  1. Budget counseling. All financial counseling appointments begin with a holistic financial assessment to help clients figure out where they stand and where they want to go. Counselors also help them set up a budget and look for ways to reduce expenses and increase income.
  2. Credit counseling. Credit counselors help clients review their credit and loan accounts and evaluate possible repayment strategies. Based on this information, they then come up with a workable plan.
  3. Debt management. Once clients have a budget in hand, they may be able to repay what they owe on their own. If not, they may be eligible to participate in the agency’s structured debt management program or in worst cases situations to receive bankruptcy counseling and education.
  4. Student loan counseling. Student loan debt counselors help borrowers review their loan agreements and consider possible repayment options. They also serve as client advocates during phone contact with loan providers and servicers. Counseling is available no matter if student loan payments are coming due, delinquent, or defaulted.
  5. Credit building. Guidewell Financial’s Save2Build loans help clients with no credit or poor credit build healthy credit. This type of loan is held in a locked savings account for 12 months. Program clients make payments of about $26 per month until their loan is satisfied. Their payments are reported to major credit reporting companies to help them build better credit. At the completion of the loan, they receive the $300 they saved.

All of Guidewell Financial’s counselors are certified.  Counseling and screening sessions take place by phone are at its offices in Catonsville, MD or Wilmington, DE. Call 1-800-642-2227 to schedule an appointment.  Visit the agency’s website to learn about its other services.

Raynaud says, “Guidewell Financial is delighted to offer these services to help Maryland residents increase their financial skills and wellbeing. The more we all learn now, the better off we’ll be!”

About Guidewell Financial Solutions   

Guidewell Financial Solutions (also known as Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware, Inc.) is an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that helps stabilize communities by creating hope and promoting economic self-sufficiency to individuals and families through financial education and counseling. Maryland License #14-01 / Delaware License #07-01

Copyright © 2017 by Guidewell Financial Solutions.

SBA Loans: Why Howard?

March 1st, 2017 | Posted by April Marasco in SBA | Small Business

If you have a small business, and you need a loan, or maybe you have had some trouble getting a conventional loan, an SBA-backed loan may be the best choice. Small Business Administration loans offer affordable financing options, with small businesses more easily meeting the lending qualifications than for traditional loans. small business

SBA loan is a bit of a misnomer. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money directly to businesses. A bank makes the loan, and then in turn works with the SBA to get a guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan. If the bank has experience with SBA and they are a Preferred Lender it is even easier to work with the SBA. So, choosing the right lender is important.

With SBA-preferred lender status and SBA Champion, Rosa Scharf, Howard Bank is a good choice as a lending partner. “The delegated authority from the SBA (that’s what the SBA-preferred status signifies) means that we have a 99.9% chance of getting the loan through the SBA process and approved. Howard’s size and position [in the region] means that we are much more nimble and flexible than larger SBA lenders, and usually the first one at the table.”

This competitive edge also provides the business more focused and local attention and knowledge. “You need a partner, and you’re getting the same level of expertise as the other banks, but I just have to walk down the hall to talk to the credit decision makers,” notes Ms. Scharf. There is no call to Raleigh or Buffalo. There is no need to sell the market to the person making the loan decision. He or she is local and understands the value of the local market.

Howard Bank offers the same level of service for a half a million-dollar company as for a ten-million-dollar company. The products change and needs change a little, but in general you need the same advice.

I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful.

The Howard Advantage

Howard Bank’s experience means we understand the SBA and how it works, and what can get done.  We are the perfect partner to shepherd you through the process.

“That’s where my 20 years of doing it comes into play,” says Rosa. “And that’s what I tell prospects. I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful. Because of my experience, early on when I’m talking to someone, I can say, ‘These are going to be our hurdles from an eligibility standpoint.’ So, you don’t have to go through a loan process for three months, and then say, ‘Oh, we can’t do it.’  I can tell you up front what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify.”

 

SBA-backed loans provide affordable financing options for small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining financing via traditional channels. Howard Bank is a preferred lender for loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Here are seven things you probably don’t know about SBA loans:

  1. The SBA doesn’t actually lend directly to businesses.
    The bank makes the loan, and then works with the SBA to get them to guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan.
  1. Personal credit is important in the SBA loan process.
    Especially with true startups, there is usually no credit history for the business and little collateral, so the credit history of the business owner(s) is significant. The owners’ credit history is an indication of how they handle credit.
  1. The SBA won’t deny a loan because of collateral (lack of), but all collateral must be taken into account
    The SBA requires the bank to consider all available collateral for the loan request. This could include the business owner’s equity in their home, vacation home, etc.
  1. Quality is more important than quantity when you are deciding whether to apply.
    Business Plans should be concise and cover the important details. The What, Why, Who, How and When of your business.
  1. Banks are interested in small business loans.
    Banks in general, and Howard Bank specifically, are very interested in helping small businesses grow and become really good bank customers. The SBA is a great tool that helps Howard Bank add value to the businesses in the communities we serve.
  1. The SBA process doesn’t take as long as most people think.
    Especially with an experienced SBA-preferred lender like Howard Bank, it is easy to navigate this process smoothly and avoid any potential obstacles. The experience Howard adds cannot change the SBA rules, but it does make it a lot less painful!
  1. Borrowers must be a small for profit business in order to be eligible for an SBA loan.
    A business must meet size standards to qualify for an SBA loan. Generally this means $7.5 million or less in revenue and 500 employees or less (depending on the industry).

With more than 20 years of SBA-backed lending experience, Rosa Scharf is the SBA Champion at Howard Bank, who works to provide SBA loan solutions to small businesses in various industries.

“I’m a Banker, in the traditional sense of the job,” states Vice President and Treasury Sales Officer, Michelle Coates. “I sell solutions – not products – and would never sell a client something that they don’t need. I believe in integrity.”

michelle coatesWhen Michelle Coates joined the Howard Bank team 5 months ago, she brought more than 35 years of banking experience with her. She started her career as a drive-in teller and then worked her way up through branch management, credit, credit administration, sales management and on to Treasury Management.

Treasury Management opportunities like the one that Michelle fills for Howard Bank are difficult to find. So she was happy to accept the position and the chance to establish Howard Bank as a bank of choice. “I want to be the clients’ Trusted Advisor, someone that they call because they want my opinion or advice.”

Many clients are also curious about the services that are used by similar companies. Michelle recognizes that, while some clients within each industry may use similar services, each client is wholly unique. “When we pro-actively engage our clients in conversations and listen to their needs, we can offer solutions that add value to their business.  We offer a Relationship Team approach to better serve our clients.” A general approach to all clients in a specific industry does not address each individual business’s needs.

“I believe we should work to own each interaction with a client, internal or external, as if this was our business.  The bottom line: It is.”

When asked specifically why customers come to Howard Bank, Michelle says, “The Howard Bank choice is the difference of having an account at Howard Bank and having a relationship.  It’s being able to pick up the phone and speak to a person that is empowered to make a decision or own the issue until a decision is made. It’s about seeing your ‘Banker’ in your community, out and about, living and active.  We are different.”

In the community, you might find Michelle at an Anne Arundel County Public Library, where she serves as a Director of the library’s Foundation. She also teaches financial education to Women in Recovery and believes that a woman with a strong financial education and an education in general is better prepared to lift up herself and her community.

Learn more about how your company can benefit from Treasury Management at Howard Bank.

 

 

In the three years that he’s been at Howard Bank, Chris Infantino has seen the mortgage department grow from a very small operation to the large portion of business that it is today. With 18 years in the mortgage industry, Infantino has answered his share of mortgage questions.

chris infantino One of the most common questions people ask him is where they can find customer reviews. After all, a mortgage is a major financial commitment and customers want to make sure they are working with a reputable bank. Outside sources, like Lending Tree, have ranked Howard Bank as being one of the best mortgage lenders. With a 4.8 out of 5-star rating, 96% of customers would recommend Howard Bank for a mortgage. In fact, Lending Tree rated Howard Bank #6 overall in customer satisfaction in the fourth quarter of 2016, based on actual customer reviews of hundreds of lenders.

Infantino recognizes that the mortgage process is not as easy as it was 10 years ago. “Clients still remember a two week process and wonder why it’s still not two weeks,” he says. Because it takes longer, Howard Bank stays on top of every detail on behalf of the client. It’s this world-class customer service that differentiates Howard Bank from other lenders. It’s also what keeps Infantino busy each day.

As Senior Vice President, Infantino spends much of his day making sure the Mortgage Loan Officers have the skills and training they need to do their jobs at the highest levels. “Customer service is the ultimate focus of Howard Bank,” he says. “Howard Bank truly cares about retaining and making their customer base happy with all aspects of their relationship with the bank.”

In addition to maintaining and managing Howard Bank’s exceptional mortgage team, Infantino is committed to Zaching Against Cancer, where he is on the board of directors.

To start a mortgage application with Howard Bank click on the button below.

For More Information

Hint: It’s all about the Internet.

By Marissa Stern
Baltimore Style Magazine

In the market for a new home? You should know that there’s been gradual changes over the years in lending and mortgaging, and if you haven’t kept up, the experience might well be unlike any home purchase you’ve made before. Among the biggest changes of late is the entry of more people in the home-buying market, making it more likely that if you don’t act fast, that quaint three-bedroom, two-bath cottage you have your eye on could be gone before you score your pre-approval letter.“Rental prices are really high,” said Matthew Krimm, regional business development manager at Mlend, which finances homes for residential buyers, “so you’re seeing people who maybe before would have been renting, are in the market to buy because they can buy a house less than they can rent one for.”

In many areas around Baltimore, there’s an imbalance between who’s buying and what’s available.“There are more buyers out there right now than there are properties,” Krimm said, “so the properties that are out there are going very quickly.” “Even though the economy in and of itself is still struggling,” he continued, “the outside of that is you have people who went through a bankruptcy or foreclosure three, four years ago and are back into the buyer pool. So boomerang buyers—people who had a financial hardship years ago—are back in a position to buy. Interest rates are lower, that makes it more affordable to buy.”

Another point to keep in mind: If you’re expecting the traditional process of filling out paperwork by hand, you’re likely in for a surprise. Much of the home-buying experience has shifted online; the paperwork isn’t even paper anymore.“When I first started, the loan package was a big pile of pages and you sat down at the kitchen table and signed everything,” he said. “Now, 95 percent of customers do that online. Back even 10 years ago if you thought about buying a house, you call the realtor your mom used and they tell you what lender to use. Now it’s social media.”

altieriRobert Altieri, executive vice president and president of the mortgage division at Howard Bank, has also noticed the change in online activity.“You have not necessarily new mortgage business popping up, but you have more internet applications,” he said. “I think you’re seeing 57 percent of mortgages done through an electronic means.”

While Howard Bank, which does roughly 250 mortgages monthly per Altieri’s estimation, does not use an online process for mortgages right now, Altieri said they hope to by the end of their third quarter. The changes he’s seen in mortgages have been more gradual, but they are certainly there.

“It seems like, since we’ve been through the Great Recession, the secondary market investors are loosening their guidelines a little bit to assist, obviously, homeowners,” he said. “That’s been a bit of a change, but a very gradual change. As the economy gets better so do the parameters and underwriting guidelines from investors.”

There have even been shifts for hard money lenders, like Craig Fuhr at (more…)

Dick Story – The Next Chapter

January 4th, 2017 | Posted by Vicki Anzman in Community

“While I love the work, there’s not a lot of runway left out there, and I want to do some flying,” says Dick Story, Howard Bank’s Senior Vice President, Director of Community Relations & Government Affairs, and Business Development Liaison, of his retirement at the end of the year. The face (and instantly recognizable voice) of Howard Bank for the last several years, Dick’s deep ties to the community and nearly infinite economic development expertise have made him an invaluable member of the Howard Bank team.Dick Story

Committed to emcee at least 35 events in 2017, Dick will continue to serve as an ambassador for Howard Bank, working in a consultative capacity with the bank. With his wife also retiring at the end of 2016, there are home improvements, home repairs, and hometown duties looming large for Dick, who hopes to be a burden to his wife.

In addition to hometown requests to run for local political office and manage a county economic development committee, there are requests for economic development help from counties further away. He’s trying to avoid all the pitfalls, and craft a retirement that satisfies both familial and professional aspirations.

The community affairs duties that Dick has been managing will be delegated to an already formed committee, that can be acutely community-focused in a way that Dick cannot from his home on the eastern shore.

“We’re supporting roughly 100 non-profits; all of that [legwork] can be done by someone else. And I’m going to miss that,” but the needs of the non-profits served by this function are too important to discharge in any other way. “As a community bank, we want to grow the community because as it grows, we grow.” According to Dick, “All of these systems will be in place when I leave on December 30.”

As to pursuits that he has not been able to engage in with his full-time bank responsibilities, Dick says, “Right now in my new old hometown, I’m putting up an HO train set in the town hall for a Christmas garden. Wait ‘til I’m there full-time; I’ve been using the last four weekends to set up the garden.”

Dick Story Retirement PartyParting advice or commentary from Dick to his colleagues is thus: “I’m your worst recurring nightmare. I’m still going to be tripping through our offices in the region, disrupting whatever work they’re trying to get done, and then leaving. I’m still going to be around because of my rolodex. In fact, Mary Ann hired me, not because she was fond of me, but because I had an enormous rolodex. And that’s still valuable. So, I make introductions, and all of that can continue. So, the advice is – don’t write the obituary yet. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

At 71, Dick Story is looking forward to “retirement,” in whatever form it finally takes.

Share your favorite Dick Story memory with us on Facebook.

Mary Ann ScullyFor thousands of years, the world has turned to both celebration and sober reflection at this time of year.  We ponder the approaching long hours of darkness and cold associated with the winter solstice; we are awed by ancient stories of infant births and temple lamps; we are always deciding on the best way to give thanks, and we are constantly contemplating challenges and opportunities ahead.  It is a time of refection in part because of all these contrasts.  We at Howard Bank want to share our reflections with you – our customers, colleagues, and community members at this time of co-celebration.

We remain ever optimistic and hope that those who are feeling anxious about the changes that have occurred in the world, and that continue to occur, can themselves reflect on the tried and trues that transcend elections, interest rate uncertainty, stock market swings, and even civil wars.

We live in one of the most free, most open countries in the world and that freedom is, in the long term, worth our constant commitment.  We, in Greater Baltimore, live in a region with higher than average education levels, higher than average wealth, higher than average growth, and lower than average unemployment- we are among the luckiest people in a world still filled with pockets of intolerance, poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy.

Each of us gets to participate in community life with many of our friends, family, and neighbors who have big enough hearts to appreciate that, while on average, we are blessed.  There are significant inequities in freedom, wealth, education, and upward opportunity where each of us can do something – no matter how small- about that every day.

We thank you for always welcoming us into these communities we serve – for doing business with us, connecting us to others, making us aware of problems to be solved, and helping us solve them together.

And we commit to continue to serve you – to help you make your dreams come true – as that is our purpose in life as your community bank.

Mary Ann

Chairman, President and CEO
Howard Bank and Howard Bancorp

With more than 40 years of commercial banking experience in the Baltimore area, Howard Bank SVP and Relationship Manager Team Lead, Rick Botti, knows how to help local businesses succeed. It often comes in the form of capital – but most business owners aren’t sure what the best solutions for their needs are. Business owners who work with Botti and his team can trust that they are getting superior customer service, quickly.Botti

A key aspect of managing commercial banking is recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. Each business has unique needs. Botti and his team not only understand that – they embrace that. And as banking experts, they know the options that fit the needs of each situation. In fact, they will tailor a program of loan, deposit and cash management services to satisfy their clients’ needs and – hopefully – improve their operations.

For Botti and his team, every day is different. There are new business relationships to develop, referrals to gain through networking, meeting the needs of existing customers, underwriting and approving credit, and fostering his own associates’ careers. “I like that we have the ability to get things done quickly for our clients and the collegiality and teamwork of our associates,” Botti says.

In celebrating the recent milestone of reaching $1B in assets, Botti says, “We’ve just scratched the surface (more…)

Join Us for Midnight Madness in Ellicott City on Friday December 2, 2016. We will be raffling off the “Ellicott City Main Street Tree”. The tree is decorated with many unique decorations from shop owners and community members. Raffle Tickets are $5.00 for 1 or $20.00 for 5. Tickets will be sold outside of the Caplans on Main Street where the tree is on display on Friday. You can also purchase tickets at Howard Bank’s Rt 40/Centennial Lane or contact April Marasco at amarasco@howardbank.com

All proceeds will go to The Ellicott City Partnership. Good Luck! (more…)

Main Street Ellicott City is getting all decked out for the holidays. There’s an excitement and vibrancy on Main Street that marks the amazing recovery and rebuilding efforts and an incredible sense of community. The bonds formed up and down the street with people joining together to rebuild old Ellicott City have been key to these efforts. “Everyone just took a piece of the pie, and got to work,” says Maureen E.C. Smith of the Ellicott City Partnership

forget-me-not-village_4792Merchants agreed that this event presented an opportunity to rebuild Ellicott City better than it was before. Restauranteurs who had never met were holding meetings talking about restaurant business in Ellicott City. Merchants from different ends of the street who didn’t know each other before the flood have been working together post flood.

The team spirit and level of effort has been incredible. “We’re not stepping on each other’s toes. And it’s amazing how well things have been happening. And it happened organically. We’re not duplicating effort and we’re not stepping on each other’s toes,” notes Smith. She also points out how many partnerships and organizations have been working together to get things accomplished, including Howard County. Ms. Smith is quick to note what an outstanding job the county and the county executive have done.

After a disaster of this magnitude, “normally only 25% of people return. We’re expecting 75 – 80 % return. We are so (more…)

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