Banking at the office Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

Employee benefit packages often play a large role in businesses hiring the best employees in the industry. A good benefits package can be what makes an applicant choose your company over the competition. Workplace banking is a service that employers can offer to 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.

In addition, there might be rate reductions on installment loans and no annual fees on the bank’s credit card, according to Rob Kruse, business banking team leader for FirstMerit Bank in Columbus.

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

Smart Business spoke with Kruse about workplace banking and how it can benefit employees.

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 employee’s 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 selecting a bank to provide a workplace-banking program?

The program is intended to be an additional benefit to employees. Business owners should research potential banks before they enter into an agreement. You may choose a bank where you 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.

How does workplace banking benefit employees?

The program is designed for the employees. Ultimately, it saves them time in their busy schedules. With services such as direct deposit, employees gain immediate access to paychecks and protection 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 deposits.

Workplace banking offers peace of mind to employees, 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 are paid the same time each month, whether the account holder is at home or on vacation. Workplace banking also saves employees from fighting busy traffic or going out in poor weather every time they want to make a bank transaction.

Bank representatives visit companies and conduct on-site presentations to introduce the bank and its programs.

Promotional materials are also sent to employees as new products arise. 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.

Are employees tied to a particular branch?

The program does not require the use of one certain branch or personal banker. You can bank at any branch in the area or outside the city. Accounts are simply tagged as a workplace-banking employee. The same service and benefits are offered at every branch.

ROB KRUSE is a business banking team leader at FirstMerit Bank in Columbus. Reach him at robert.kruse@firstmerit.com or (614) 659-1278.