Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Consumers prefer to bank at branches


Industry notes: Banking

By Jeff McKinney
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Despite more emphasis on electronic banking in recent years, U.S. consumers still seem to prefer old-fashioned brick and mortar.

About 83 percent of the 1,011 adults contacted by the Gallup Organization recently told the firm that they go to a branch up to five times monthly, more so than any other distribution option that banks offer.

Of those surveyed, 54 percent say they stop by the branch one to to three times a month, while 29 percent say they use the branch four to five times a month.

The data is interesting because it comes after banks in recent years have put more emphasis on electronic banking, encouraging customers to use ATMs or the Internet. The reason: Electronic banking cuts banks' operating costs.

Firm gives low rates to first-time home buyers

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency is giving first-time home buyers an option to take advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in its 20-year history.

By contacting participating Tristate lenders, for example, area residents can possibly qualify to buy homes at below-market rates.

Qualified home buyers will be able to choose between programs.

One will offer financing beginning at 4.99 percent, down from 5.2 percent a month ago, without down-payment assistance. The other will offer new rates at 5.39 percent, down from 5.6 percent, with down-payment help.

Financing is available through 50 lenders with more than 400 offices statewide. Those companies include offices or mortgage companies for U.S. Bank, Huntington, Fifth Third and Wells Fargo, as well as about 30 other local lenders.

To qualify, applicants must be first-time home buyers - not owning their own residence the past three years - or buying in targeted reinvestment areas as designated by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. Those applying with three or more family members must have annual incomes below $89,600, while those with one to two people must have annual incomes below $76,800. They can apply to build homes up to $215,000 and existing homes priced up to $157,000.

When contacting participating lenders, applicants inform them of the home loans available though the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

For more details, call (888) 643-2636.

Electronic check popularity on the rise

More Americans are paying their bills with electronic checks.

The number of e-check payments made by U.S. consumers are expected to hit or exceed 1 billion by the end of this year, doubling the number reached in 2002, according to a new report by the Electronic Payment Association.

An e-check basically is a one-time electronic debit made from a person's checking account, one that can be made through such methods as the Internet, telephone or cash register at a business or store. While a consumer uses a check to initiate the payment, it's processed electronically through the banking industry's Automated Clearing House Network.

"E-checks are an efficient and convenient way for consumers to make payments," says William B. Nelson, executive vice president of the National Automated Clearing House Association.

For more benefits and other tidbits, visit Web site.

Fifth Third signs non-bank revenue deals

Fifth Third Investment Advisors has signed two deals that will help it generate more nonbank revenue.

The Cincinnati banking giant will provide retirement plans services to Metcut Research's $5 million, 401(k) for its 120 employees.

Based in Cincinnati, Metcut Research is an independent materials engineering and testing firm.

Fifth Third also will handle the $3.3 million, 401(k) plan for Hydrotech Inc. of Cincinnati. With 70 employees, Hydrotech distributes custom-engineered precision meter/mix machinery systems and provide wastewater treatment services.

E-mail jmckinney@enquirer.com



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