Condo Media - September 2013 - (Page 50)

vendor SpoTlIghT Savings Institute Bank & Trust Banking Where Customer Service is a Top Priority by Pamela Schweppe I f you think every bank is as impersonal as the ATM machine in the lobby, then you haven’t experienced the Savings Institute Bank & Trust. Just ask Lisa Allegro, the bank’s assistant vice president & commercial loan officer. “We’re that rare breed in banking at this time, in that we still focus our attention 100 percent on customer service,” she says. Since its founding in 1842, Savings Institute has remained true to its New England roots, with headquarters in Willimantic, Conn., and 26 offices in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Multifaceted Financing for Multi-Family Residences That doesn’t mean the bank isn’t forward-looking, however. When the condominium boom surged in the 1970s, Savings Institute quickly responded to the emerging need, offering finance packages while navigating what was then sometimes undefined territory. Even today, many banks aren’t willing to offer loans to condominium associations, because of the complexities and regulations involved. Yet the need is greater than ever. “Condominiums are getting older,” points out David Lynch of David R. Lynch & Associates, LLC. An attorney, Lynch handles the legalities of many of the condominium loans negotiated by Savings Institute. “If you have a home that’s 20 years old, you have a roof that’s 20 years old. A new roof may be required, parking lots degenerate, decks rot, and just a lot of things happen.” At the other end of the spectrum, demand for new condominium complexes is rising as more and more empty nesters downsize from their big homes. 50 Condo Media • Advertisement Serving both personal and business customers, Savings Institute offers a wide array of savings and checking accounts, CDs, commercial services, residential and consumer lending, and financial planning and investment services, including life insurance. A 401(k) product has also recently been added. The bank’s condominium clients are just as varied as its products, ranging from standard residential complexes to industrial associations. The bank even makes loans to unusual associations, such as campsites, dockominiums (water-based condominiums, such as boat slips), and even timeshares, with their added regulatory complexities. Each loan is tailored to the individual needs of the association, which must meet four of five very specific criteria in order to be considered for the loan. Still, a loan is often the best way for an association to finance the capital improvements it needs. As Lynch puts it, “There are three ways to pay for repairs. You can levy a special assessment, which many unit owners don’t like; you can take money out of the capital reserve, which usually isn’t what it should be because reserves take the hit for everything else that happens; or you can take out a loan.” Lynch praises Allegro for taking an active role in finding ways to help association boards obtain the financing they need. “She looks at budgets and advises them on what they can afford to pay,” he says. “She’s very, very responsive. She does a wonderful job.” A Rare Focus on Customer Service That commitment to customer service is rooted in the DNA of Savings Institute. Four core values have been the guiding principles for how the bank does business from the beginning: service, integrity, boldness, and teamwork. “These principles are based upon the belief that customer service is number one, and that’s the same philosophy we’ve had since 1842,” says Allegro. “We believe that servicing our customer goes from beginning to end, so if you open an account today, we’ll be with you through the end of the account. We’re not just going to walk out of the attorney’s office after the closing and be done with it. We’re going to be there for your every need.” One way that Allegro maintains that level of service even after the loan is closed is by staying in touch. For example, she has a policy of reaching out to her clients 30 days after the loan has closed to make sure everything is OK. If the client hasn’t set up an automatic payment on the loan, she is happy to facilitate that, to eliminate uncertainty over whether the loan payment has been made. Additionally, the bank is willing to look at modifications throughout the life of the loan, should rates drop significantly. And if unit owners want to sell the unit and pass on their share of the loan, the bank can reamortize the loan to accommodate that. “We believe in the value-added that we give by treating our customers with respect — and of course the follow-up, to make sure they’re getting the best products for their need at that point,” Allegro says. One case where she went above and beyond the typical banker to help an association with an urgent need was Victoria Beach Condominiums of East Haven, Conn. Three of the association’s

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - September 2013

Condo Media - September 2013
From the CED’s Desk
Editorial Board
CAI News
CAI Regional News
Asked & Answered
Homeowner’s Corner
Vendor Spotlight
Volunteer Spotlight
Self-Managed Association Boards
Classified Service Directory
Advertisers Index

Condo Media - September 2013