New Ent service center offers technology firsts

Filed under: Banking & Finance |

In the latest step of an aggressive expansion plan, Ent Federal Credit Union opened its 20th service center in Stetson Hills on Jan. 28, and the event was a peek at things to come in the Colorado Springs banking world.

The more than 1,000 people attending the grand opening had a chance to operate state-of-the-art ATMs and a safety deposit box security system that measures pressure points on the palms of the hand to identify members.

To gain access to safety deposit boxes, credit union members place their palms on small wall-mounted panel. When identification is ensured, a vault door opens, allowing one person at a time into the safety deposit box area. No Ent employee assistance is needed.

The ATMs allow images of money and checks to appear on the machine’s monitor so members can check deposits before finalizing transactions. Deposit envelopes are optional.

Ent officials say they are the first financial institution in the Pikes Peak region to use the new technology.

The service center at 6060 Championship View, south of the intersection of Barnes and Tutt roads, is the first of four service centers scheduled to open in 2006.

Ent also plans to open centers this year in Denver, Pueblo and the fast-growing community of Jackson Creek, south of Monument.

S&P upgrades U.S. Bancorp

U.S. Bancorp this week got a ratings bump from Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services.

S&P raised the ratings on U.S. Bancorp, including its counterparty credit ratings, from A+/A-1 to AA-/A-1+.

S&P also raised its long-term counterparty credit ratings on U.S.

Bancorp’s subsidiaries, U.S. Bank National Association and U.S. Bank National Association N.D. from AA- to AA.

This AA rating is the highest rating S&P gives to domestic banks.

The rating agency also revised its outlook for U.S. Bancorp to stable from positive.

Study looks at rural economy

Creighton University economists surveyed chief executive officers and presidents of community banks in seven states to gauge the economic pulse of their communities.

“MainStreet Economy” will study economic conditions now and six months down the road. The first survey, completed in January, indicates that the non-urban, agriculturally dependent economies of the seven-state area expanded for the month.

Additionally, presidents and CEOs in the region, which includes the rural and non-urban portions of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, expect the “MainStreet Economy” numbers to continue to grow slowly during the next six months.

Bankers in the survey reported that strong cattle prices continue to bolster growth for portions of the region. Farm land prices also remain strong.

January’s MainStreet study’s economic index is 53.3, slightly above neutral growth of 50.

When compared to local urban counterparts, rural economies were strongest in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri and weakest in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The survey’s creators noted that Wal-Mart stores continue to have a negative effect on rural business.

Ent employees foil fraud

Twelve Ent Federal Credit Union employees have been recognized for their efforts to stop fraudulent actions during 2005.

As recognition for their work, the employees will share $1,750 in cash.

The employees are Mary Brinkdopke, January Finley, Teri Grignot, Caryn Kuechle, Adrienne Lieb, Courtney Matthews, Samantha Morrison, Lisa Olivas, Janine Shirley, Brianna Spellman, Anabelle Vong and LaShae Woodard.

Tools available for EITC

The Internal Revenue Service sent word this week reminding tax professionals they can help clients receive tax relief from the Earned Income Tax Credit and there are a myriad of IRS tools to help them prepare claims.

For the 2005 tax year, the EITC income limits increased significantly, especially for married taxpayers who file jointly. The maximum credit amount also increased to $4,400.

Also, a number of new provisions seek to ease the burden on victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Tax professionals prepared 71 percent of the 21.1 million EITC claims for tax year 2004. EITC claimants received more than $39 billion in tax relief.

U.S. Bank most trusted

Survey results released last week show U.S. Bank tied with National City Bank as the most trusted bank in America.

Wachovia placed third in the study.

The Ponemon Institute and Vontu Inc. organized the study to rate which banks are regarded in the top for safeguarding personal information.

About 68 percent of the survey respondents who give their banks high marks for privacy believe their banks are committed to protecting their personal information.

However, the study also found that even among banks with the highest level of consumer trust, it only takes two privacy breaches to destroy that trust.

Not surprisingly, if consumers lose confidence in their bank, they usually transfer their accounts to another institution.

Rob Larimer covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.