This is Good Karma

Of all the confusing topics in personal finance, credit scores (a number that represents the cumulative health of your credit) and credit reports (the report that compiles your personal credit history) have to be near the top of the list. Not only are there three different credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) that each report information a little differently, but each bureau also calculates a FICO score that is likely different for each of the bureaus.

Your FICO score is called a FICO score because it is calculated using software from Fair Isaac and Company. This model is the predominant scoring method in the industry at the moment and many banks use a version of FICO to make lending decisions. However, since each bureau may collect a different combination of credit information, and because they each have their own formula for how to calculate the score, the three scores are rarely the same.

In addition, each bureau calls its FICO score something different: Equifax uses the Beacon score, Transunion calls theirs an Empirica score, and Experian simply calls their score the Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the three bureaus don’t appreciate the stranglehold Fair Isaac has on the industry so they each have their own proprietary scores and in 2006 they collaborated to create a score called the VantageScore to compete with the FICO.

Finally, the bureaus want you to pay for their scores. These scores can vary significantly, it may be difficult to really gauge the health of one’s credit, and the score you pay for may not even be the score a bank uses to determine creditworthiness.

So, what’s the good news?

One of these bureaus has finally decided to create a FREE tool consumers can use to monitor and track their credit history and score over time. is a service that tracks your score and credit report changes for free. The site provides daily updates to your TransRisk score (Transunion’s proprietary model), VantageScore, and Auto Insurance Score (score used by insurance companies to gauge one’s insurance risk).

I highly recommend checking out this website. Not only do they provide free score updates, but they also show changes in balances, risk ratings, and other alerts so it becomes much easier to understand how a credit score moves over time. And even though there are a myriad of different scores out there, consistently tracking one score can be useful and can also be very helpful when determining the best time to apply for a new loan. I use their free App on my iPhone and also access their website from my desktop.

Considering how difficult credit can be to manage, it is refreshing to see Transunion create a service that makes the whole process easier.


Does your iPhone do your Banking?

Right now I’m reading a book about banking called Bank 2.0 by Brett King that feels completely out of date. It was written in 2010.

Banking is changing so fast because of technology that many banks–and consumers–may be having a difficult time keeping up. A few short years ago mobile banking (banking on a mobile phone) was a novelty. Now almost every Top 100 bank (biggest banks by size in the United States) and many community banks like First National offer mobile banking.

At FNB (and many community banks) the branch has traditionally been where all business is transacted. With the introduction of various technologies (online banking, mobile banking, direct deposit, etc) now only about 15% of First National Bank’s client transactions happen physically in the branch. The rest happen electronically or online.

I’m curious to know what your experience has been with banking and technology. Do you use mobile banking? If so, what do you like? And if not, is there a specific reason?

There are still only a few of the largest banks that offer check deposit with a mobile phone. Do you use this service at Chase, PayPal, or another institution? Does the service work as promised?

CEP and OCAP: Acronyms that stand for small business

Community Banks and small business tend to give government a hard time for often making it more difficult for small businesses to be profitable and grow. So when a government program comes along that effectively encourages small business growth, it is worth noting.

In this case, the State of Ohio has developed several lending programs after receiving more than $55 million from the US Treasury for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). This initiative was designed to encourage lending to small businesses. The two programs mentioned above are the Collateral Enhancement Program (CEP) and Ohio Capital Access Program (OCAP). Both programs help mitigate risk for Banks who are working to put together loan packages for small businesses that may be creditworthy but lack a traditional down payment or do not have adequate collateral. Typically government programs (i.e. the Small Business Administration) have funds available but the requirements and/or underwriting are often prohibitive and difficult to navigate. These state programs, on the other hand, are easy for banks to use and the State wants these funds to be distributed to small businesses that need them.

Check with your local community bank to see if they participate in these programs or visit the State website to see a list of participating banks. The website also lists eligibility requirements and explains more about program details.

As of 11/1/2012 the State has awarded $3.452 million of the $33 million available in the program. Your community bank’s small business lender should be knowledgeable about these programs and can help you explore your options. This is one instance where community banks, small business, and state government can work together to create jobs and improve communities.

Thinking Small is Big after Black Friday

Black Friday has come and gone and retailers hopefully had a great start to their holiday season.  Big stores like Wal Mart, Macys, and Best Buy had their day yesterday.  And now today is Small Business Saturday, where the real shopping starts.  According to the Small Business Administration, 2 out of every 3 jobs is created by a small business.  Small businesses are the lifeblood of the United States and are especially important to keeping communities vibrant in places like Bluffton, Pandora, and Findlay.  So, get in the spirit and support your local small businesses on Small Business Saturday and every other chance you get!

Mutual Loyalty

How many people do you know have enjoyed a private dinner with George W. Bush, won a journalism award writing for Reuters, speaks five languages, served on the Governor’s Cabinet of George Voinovich, and traveled the world while banking with First National Bank of Pandora?  If no one came to mind, then you haven’t met M. Michael Akrouche of Beirut, Lebanon.

Michael has been a customer at First National Bank for over 50 years and has truly led a remarkable life.  He was born and grew up in Lebanon and moved away from home after college to take a job writing for Reuters of London.  His job took him all over the world to write about Lebanese natives who left for economic and religious reasons and found success outside their home country.  Michael won a journalism award for a piece he wrote about the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant who he met in the Caribbean during his travels.

Michael arrived in the United States for the first time in June, 1956.  He spent time at Ohio State University visiting friends and even met his future wife at a dance on campus on Valentine’s Day, 1957.  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Akrouche visited Findlay with a friend whose brother worked at Cooper Tire.  While he was in the area, Michael visited First National Bank of Pandora and opened his first
account.  According to Michael, he has written thousands of checks over the years from his account and is still an active depositor.

Mr. Akrouche fondly remembers the first application he completed at the Bank over 50 years ago.  He had spent all his time in international urban settings to that point in his life and thought it was humorous that the Bank application asked him how many cows, pigs, chickens, and acres of land he owned!  He has continued to use his account at First National Bank throughout the years because he appreciates everything community banks contribute locally and he has enjoyed his interaction with staff whenever he has had a banking request.

Michael’s illustrious career includes time spent working in the public relations section of the Department of Highways for Governor C. William O’Neill, in 1958-59.   He also worked as the Assistant Director of the SBA for 63 counties in Ohio, the Deputy Director of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and was named Director of the Department of Liquor Control when George Voinovich became Governor in 1991. Michael played an integral role in privatizing liquor sales in Ohio stores and eventually retired in 1997 from the position after he closed down the departments’ liquor stores and abolished his job as Director of the
Department.  According to Akrouche, the privatization effort saved the State of Ohio approximately $37 million in the first year.                                                                          

One of Michael’s proudest moments was a personal invitation from George W. Bush to attend a private ambassador’s dinner at the White House with the President in 2005.  Mr. Akrouche has been happily married to Mary Walters of Jackson, Ohio for 54 years and counting and has two adult children and five grandchildren. He is now retired and lives in Westerville, Ohio and Florida.

We’re flattered to be the Bank Mr. Akrouche chose to visit during his travels, and we have enjoyed getting to know him and his remarkable life story.

Do you have a story about your positive experiences banking with First National? If so, we’d love to hear it. 

Construction is underway on Findlay West

From L to R: Lenny Clouse – President, Clouse Construction Corporation; John Haywood – President, Findlay-Hancock County Alliance; Don Dreisbach – Chairman, First National Bank Board; Chuck Niswander – Chairman, Pandora Bancshares; Robert Sprague – State of Ohio Representative; Todd Mason – President/CEO, First National Bank; Pete Sehnert – Mayor, City of Findlay

The Bank broke ground yesterday for the new “Findlay West” branch.  The branch will open early next year and is located across the road from Wal Mart on Trenton Avenue west of I75.  The exciting times continue at First National Bank.

It Was BIG, Thanks to Your Help

It would have taken a whole lot more than overcast skies and a little rain to dampen the entrepreneurial spirits of the 40 youth who showed up at “work” Saturday for First National Bank’s inaugural “BIG Lemonade Stand.”

Bring on the Customers!

From the authentic lemonade stand to the classic signage, this group of 5-13 year olds made the most of their afternoon.  They poured lemonade, handed out stickers to loyal customers, and put their classroom learning to work.

Thanks to all of you parents for allowing your children to participate.  Thanks to all of you who bought cold lemonade on a chilly day in order to encourage these eager kids to take the initiative and get excited about working hard and earning money.  Thanks to Bluffton Presbyterian Church for allowing the kids to set up shop on the church lawn.  Thanks to Bluffton Dari Freeze for donating cups for the stand.  Thanks to Randy Scoles and company for his great work on the lemonade stand.  And thanks to the young people who participated and have a little extra money in their savings accounts as a result of their labor.

Inaugural BIG Lemonade Stand