Banking Services Critical
Working Closely With Your Bank is Best Bet

These are strange days indeed, where your money is concerned.

With a mercurial stock market and near-daily fluctuations in interest rates on everything from CDs to business loans and home mortgages, the financially savvy are spending more time huddled with their money handlers to get the biggest bang for their buck.

For many, the accessibility of local advisers and the services they offer is key.

In Northern Kentucky, experts to maximize your financial options are more than accessible.

Crestview Hills-based Bank of Kentucky offers 32 locations and Burlington-headquartered Heritage Bank just doubled its presence in Northern Kentucky with the acquisition of the former Farmers Bank, for example.

In the current atmosphere, that’s critical.

With the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate home mortgages dropping to a near generational low of sub-4 percent and banks offered more advantages and programs for businesses, customers need help to navigate the world of options.

“It’s a completely different world,” says Barry Millson, president of the Florence-based Millson/Walker Financial Group, which has been advising clients for almost 40 years. “Information is instantaneous.”

Reworking your mortgage under the current rates can save you thousands of dollars over its term. It’s also a good time to buy if you can qualify and if you have confidence in the current value of homes in the market.

Business Services

For businesses, new services can not only help your bottom line, but improve customer service as well. Heritage, for example, offers its Business NOW account, which accrues interest daily, instead of the old monthly model. The bank, as part of its business services, can also set up the newest credit and debit card processing systems at your company and train workers on its use.

The Bank of Kentucky, meanwhile, has a wide range of commercial loan streams available to customers to take advantage of low interest rates. It offers group banking plans with discounted rates for CDs and IRA accounts and, with an SBA Express Lender distinction, can help customers quickly navigate a loan through the federal Small Business Administration.

On the personal side, the bank also offers the services of its wealth management team of advisers to oversee trusts and portfolio management — a service, according to Julie Dusing, one of the bank’s advisers, is key in a time when tempting opportunities also come with oft-underestimated risks.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a stock, mutual fund or more sophisticated product. If you don’t understand the risk or how it fits into your overall portfolio, you should not be investing in it,” she explains. “If you see something that’s offering a great rate, there is usually higher risk with it, too. You have to understand the risks.”

An adviser, she explains, will have your back. Millson agrees.

“You need someone capable of what we call ‘quarterbacking’ — working with other advisors like your attorney, CPA, stockbroker and insurance agent, to make sure your planning is working toward your financial goals,” he says. A quarterback will not only help you navigate the investing shoals, but oversee how your investments work with (or against) each other.

“Most people have a 401k retirement plan, which is run by their company’s investment firm. Unless you know how all its investment choices are broken down, you might have duplication in investments you make. You’re wasting money,” he says. “No one can understand it all on their own. This is a team effort.”

Other financial tips from the experts:

• Minimize risk. Even investors on solid footing can ill afford a losing proposition. One way to hedge your investment bets, says Dusing, is to diversify — not only among industries, but asset classes and region. Also, look for opportunities that have built-in safety. Stocks that pay dividends provide a stream of income to the investor while also provide some downside protection in a broad market selloff, she points out.

• Get organized. Know your investments and other assets, like real estate holdings, insurance plans and retirement packages, and have them easily accessible on your computer or printout.

“You should be able to put your hands on a simple statement of all your assets at any given time,” says Millson. “Our experience is that people who know what they have and where it is fare much better than people who haven’t kept track of their worth,” he adds.

• Be “hands on.” Check progress often, says Millson.

“It’s not enough to put a strategy together, implement it, then stick it in a drawer,” he says. “You have to keep an eye on it and be disciplined. Check it daily. The only thing that’s guaranteed in this business is that things will change, and they change often.” ■