M&I sees positive change with BMO
By Mary Matsumoto
Mary Matsumoto photo
Staff members at M&I Bank in New Holstein include (front, from left) Debbie Mueller, Ann Hansen and Koren Zipperer; and (back) Diane Thorson, Karen Vandermause, Jen Albright, Ann Webber and Cheri Reedy.

M&I has been undergoing some exciting new changes since their acquisition by BMO Financial Group last July, giving an even deeper dimension to their slogan, “the bank that defines great customer experience.”

Customers can now expect to benefit from a full array of services that span the continent in an intimate, small-town atmosphere. Yet, they can bank as they have before the change to make the transition as seamless as possible. The move to become a part of BMO Financial Group will make for a more competitive, cost-efficient company with even greater efficiency and with more and better product offerings available for their customers.

The change is not obvious from the outside of the building as yet, but by October the building will sport a new name with a sign that reads “BMO Harris Bank,” a branding change, as it were. This will come with a new phone system and a new computer system, tying the branches together.

The same familiar, smiling faces will be there to greet their customers as they have in the past. All staff members are part of the community with 122 years of total banking experience, guaranteeing the same friendly service.

Lower mortgage rates

One of the benefits customers will notice is lower mortgage rates.

“Right now, we’re offering a 3.99 APR mortgage for 10 years, no closing cost,” said Diane Thorson, vice president. “Purchase rates are even lower.”

And customers are happy to know that mortgages are now serviced in house. So if they have a question, they can talk to a real person, someone they know.

“Customers can take out a first mortgage, long-term, fixed-rate type, and they make their payments right here at M&I,” Thorson said.

Until the end of June, customers can take advantage of a 15-year locked-in rate with no closing costs. With eligible BMO Harris personal checking accounts, a customer may be eligible for closing cost credit towards either their new purchase mortgage or refinance.

There have also been changes when it comes to business products.

“At least 20 percent of our business customers pay less now than they had been,” Thorson said.

Lender visits bank weekly

The bank is happy to report that a mortgage lender, Mary Johnson, comes in at least once a week or by appointment to sit down with buyers and help them get a mortgage tailored to their needs.

In addition to the mortgage lender, Financial Advisor Kevin A. Baranczyk, CFP, is available in the New Holstein branch on Thursdays and Fridays or by appointment. He will sit down to answer questions, to analyze where the individual customer is in life (Is he buying a home, putting children through college or thinking about retirement?) and then help him develop a financial plan accordingly. The service is available at least once every year to consider changes in the customer’s life and needs. And the good news is, the consultation is free.

Another service provided by BMO Harris is their Helpful Steps or “simple steps to help you make sense of your money.” They have put together a financial toolkit to help people reduce their debt and save more each month. The toolkit helps make it easier to make informed decisions about money and helps parents to instill valuable habits in their children.

One of the features of the program is the opportunity to save money automatically and, thereby, painlessly. By signing up, the bank will transfer any amount a customer decides on from his personal checking account to his savings or money market account each month. They also offer direct deposit where a fixed percentage of each paycheck is deposited into the customer’s savings account upon request. As the booklet puts it, “Think of it as paying yourself first.” By transferring $50 into a savings account each week, a customer can save $2,600 in a year—plus interest. In 10 years, it follows that he can accumulate $26,000, plus interest.

This account can come to the rescue in emergencies as well since the money is always available.

Getting out of debt sooner

The Helpful Steps program also helps a customer learn how to get out of debt sooner and save money, how to prepare for the unexpected and how to help children become “money smart” from little on. The Helpful Steps for Parents Web site has an assortment of articles, tools and tips, plus interactive and fun learning games.

Another helpful tool is online and phone banking where a customer can check transactions, account balances, transfer money between accounts and schedule payments with bill pay. With the wide variety of activity available online and by phone, it’s just like actually being in the bank but without leaving the house. The days of having to wait for the mail or go to the bank during bank hours to review a bank statement are gone. Now, customers can bank 24/7 for 365 days a year. What could be more convenient than that?

Mobile banking.

Whatever a customer can do by computer, he can do with a smart phone even on the go. In fact, it is possible to take a phone picture of a check and then make a deposit wherever the customer is. The bank will then send a return e-mail as confirmation.

Online and mobile banking is particularly helpful for college students who can interact with their hometown bank no matter where they are. And until they are 25, their checking accounts are free, Thorson said. Especially valuable to students is the ability to check their balances before writing that check.

Snowbirds who winter in Florida also appreciate online banking where their hometown facility is as close as their computer.

Even before the acquisition, M&I had