Smarter banking Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

For businesses attempting to hire the best employees in the industry, employee benefit packages often play a large role. Workplace banking is a service that employers can offer employees at no cost to the business.

Workplace banking is a financial solutions benefit. This is a voluntary program that offers employees banking services with discounted rates and incentives. Products include free interest-bearing checking accounts with no monthly fees, unlimited ATM withdrawals and waived mortgage application fees. Other offers include periodic CD and rate specials, overdraft protection, and free online banking and bill pay. There are rate reductions on installment loans and no annual fees on the banks credit card, says Ronald Leslie, business banking team leader for FirstMerit Bank.

Most people run in and out of banks and do not have a relationship with their bank representatives. These programs offer employees someone to sit down with and talk to about their options and how they can increase their wealth, says Leslie.

Smart Business spoke with Leslie about workplace banking, the benefits it can provide all parties involved and what to look for in a bank.

How does such banking benefit the employee?

The program is designed for the employees. Ultimately, it saves employees time in their busy schedules. With services, such as direct deposit, the program helps employees have immediate access to paychecks and protects them against overdrafts. Some banks place a hold on a portion of the deposit. With workplace banking, an employee has immediate access to funds and can set up automatic bill pay to coincide with direct deposit.

Workplace banking offers an employee peace of mind, since this reduces the chance of fraud or lost checks. The services also prevent the employee from being tied down. Checks are deposited and bills paid the same time each month, whether the account holder is at home or on vacation. Workplace banking also saves an employee from a trip to the bank for every transaction.

Bank representatives visit companies and conduct on-site presentations to introduce the bank to their programs. This portion of the program is beneficial to all employees, even if you do not enroll in the program. Bank representatives offer educational information about products and options for individuals and answer questions for employees.

The program does not require the use of one certain branch or personal banker. Accounts are simply tagged as a workplace banking employee, and the same service and benefits are offered at each branch of that bank. Promotional materials are also sent to these employees as new products arise.

Why should companies offer workplace banking?

The cost of health care and insurance coverage is an outrageous expense for many companies. This program is a nice added-value benefit the company can offer at no expense. The program helps employees manage and increase personal wealth and helps to make the employees feel appreciated. It adds to the overall benefits package for the employees and shows that the company is concerned and wants to see its employees be successful.

Workplace banking does not invade an employees’ privacy. Though the company is offering the program, it does not have access to personal accounts or information. Once the company introduces and endorses the workplace program, the company no longer has any involvement with personal financial records.

What should business owners look for when they are selecting a bank to provide the workplace banking program to employees?

This program is intended to be an additional benefit to employees. A business owner should research potential banks where they may enter into an agreement. Often businesses bring in banks with which they already have a business relationship.

The bank should have a good reputation in the business world and in the community and should provide a sense of stability for employees. As always, you want a bank that offers excellent service and competitive rates. Trust and reliability is also a necessary factor to a successful program.

A bank should be able to offer easy access if an employee already has accounts with that bank. Employees should not have to close existing accounts. Rather they should be able to change the account status so they are provided with all the benefits of work-place banking.

RONALD LESLIE is business banking team leader for FirstMerit Bank. Reach him at Ronald.Leslie@firstmerit.com or (216) 802-6593.