United Bank honored

Published 4:51 pm Friday, June 3, 2011

United Bank CEO Bob Jones, center, with bank employees Cathy Lowrey, Marina SImpson, Donna Gilman and Danyelle Morris after the bank received an FDIC award last week.|Submitted Photo

United Bank was among just three banks recognized nationally this week with the first Chairman’s Award from the FDIC.

The award recognized United Bank’s Gateway Checking account, created in 2007 as a second-chance account for credit-challenged customers who may otherwise not qualify for a deposit account.

“In a time when banks are blamed for creating economic challenges and are criticized as not being helpful, I am proud that United Bank stands as an example of how a bank can serve the entire needs of its customers and its communities,” said Bob Jones, president and CEO of United Bank. “This award is a tremendous honor and reinforces for us that our mission and the work we do for our clients makes a difference.”

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Jones said the program was created as bank officials realized that some customers had a hard time opening accounts.

“We were trying to create a way to get them back into the banking system,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of the population does not have a banking relationship. And that’s a pretty broad-based statistic, that’s not just in our market.”

At the awards dinner, the FDIC recognized Marketing Officer Marina Simpson, Branch Operations Supervisor Danyelle Morris, Branch Manager Jane Woods, Training Officer Donna Gilman and Deposit Operations Officer Cathy Lowrey as representatives of the various bank departments and staff responsible for creating and implementing Gateway Checking.

Jones said the evaluation process for the award was extensive. “They went through a very detailed analysis,” he said.

The FDIC committee considered the innovation of the account program, its results and its ability to be used at other institutions, as well as whether the account was easy for consumers to understand and use.

Jones said the Gateway Checking account program was also a way for bank officials to educate consumers — especially those at risk for credit problems — about responsible spending and saving.

In addition to Wednesday’s banquet, United Bank officials also took part Thursday in a public meeting at which financial industry leaders, congressional delegates, corporate executives and public policy makers discussed the state of economic inclusion and its impact for the future. Later that day they shared more information about the Gateway program at a panel discussion.

“Gateway Checking provides customers the opportunity to have basic banking services like check writing and online banking while limiting account features that may cause issues when it comes to managing money,” said Simpson, the branch operations supervisor. “Once customers begin to feel comfortable and confident that they can manage the account, we can upgrade their services to one of our more robust offerings.”

United Bank has more than 1,200 Gateway Checking accounts, with more than 500 qualifying for an upgraded product after six months.

Gateway Checking has slightly more relaxed requirements for qualification but also some limited features.

Basic checking formerly required a minimum credit score and an assessment of an individual’s banking and credit history. Gateway Checking is available to individuals with lower or no credit scores.

It features standard checks, but no debit card. Along with credit-challenged clients, United Bank found Gateway Checking to be a fit for clients with alternative identification or limited banking history such as immigrant populations.