Business

Local Banks Bloom After the Doom and Gloom

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As perennial as your favorite native Georgia plants, the community banks and financial institutions of Gwinnett County have begun to emerge from a hard winter spent trying to survive the fallout from a turbulent 2009 and the aftermath of U.S. President Barack Obama”s label of"fat-cat bankers"during his State of the Union address in January.

A priority moving forward into 2010: disassociating local institutions with the mega-banks and Wall Street bailouts that have darkened the image of the financial services industry. Community-based banks and credit unions have launched a massive image improvement campaign.

Amidst it all, Gwinnett area financial institutions are stable and thriving with new ideas and business solutions to strengthen customer relationships and their local marketplace. One of the key steps to achieving this goal: educating customers about the distinct benefits of banking with locally-based banks and credit unions.

Most banks and credit unions in Gwinnett are small, community-oriented and strive to keep their assets local by cultivating personal relationships with their clients. As a rule, community financial institutions know their customers. There is a personal component to lending, and community lenders tend to look at more than"on paper"financials because they are familiar with a customer”s reputation, resources and talents.

"In today”s economy, it is important for our bank and our customers to know each other as more than a business contact, but also as a member of a shared community,"says Chris Mixon, community executive and SVP for Bank of North Georgia in Johns Creek, Norcross and Suwanee." Our commitment to local market decision-making allows customers to know that the real decision-makers reside within their communities."

"The inherent structure of our credit union is to put our members – our customers – first,"says Georgia”s Own Credit Union president and CEO, Charlotte Ayers." We are a member-owned institution. This not only elevates level of service, but also results in much better value as earnings are returned to our members, rather than stockholders, in the way of better rates and fewer fees."

Because credit unions are member-owned, account holders are actually part owner in the enterprise. Credit unions are also not for profit. Members may be offered fewer and smaller fees, better interest rates and dividends that reflect a share of any profits made. Anyone in the U.S. can become a member of a credit union based on where you live, where you work and the associations to which you belong.

Strength and Performance
With federal banking regulators pushing for strict new standards and more responsible lending practices, 80 percent of Georgia financial institutions currently meet or exceed previously established"well-capitalized"guidelines.

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