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Out-of-the-box thinking, into a home

Community bank tackles student loan debt to enable homeownership

Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan “The Wombat” Fisher’s personal mission. Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan “The Wombat” Fisher’s personal mission.

Technology is not always the answer to issues that face the community financial institution industry today!

On the contrary, sometimes the solution is just making a connection to a customer that meets their lifestyle challenges.

Solving a critical problem

Let’s take a mutual institution in the upper midwest, $1.8 billion-asset Gate City Bank. This is where I live and work, and we are often confronted with young college graduates having to leave the area in search of employment that will help them pay back their student loans.

The debt load is significant, with the average burden of under-graduates for 2015 being $30,867.00, according to my research. This is huge for a recent college graduate—a daunting and discouraging task to repay.

Add the hope of buying a home and you know why we lose our young minds to other, higher-paying communities.

Competition and capitalism, right? Victory to the highest bidder? Not so fast!

Opening the door in hometowns

Making a connection to a potential customer translates into understanding their challenges and proposing a solution. In comes Gate City Bank.

The bank has come up with a creative and relevant way to connect with our college graduates by investing in them and encouraging them to invest in our community. It is a simple response to a real need: Making it easier for this group to qualify for a home ownership by reducing the cost to carry their student debt.

The bank has recently started a program called the BetterLife Student Loan

BetterLife Student Loans

Tapping into both dreams and realities

The program is aimed directly at the young graduate starting his or her career with only a dream of home ownership. The program brings together a concept of building a growing community by investing in increasing home ownership. Furthermore, the bank’s program aims to meet the need of young graduates by making home ownership real and affordable by reducing the burden of student loan debt.

It’s just plain visionary!

The BetterLife Student Loan features no fees and a 1% APR. For individuals who are financing a home purchase through Gate City Bank, the program, announced last November, is designed to help make student loan monthly payments more affordable.

At the time the program was announced, Kevin Hanson, executive vice-president of lending, stated that:

"A college education remains one of the best investments students can make, but many individuals continue to struggle with the cost and this can become an obstacle when purchasing a new home. Our new BetterLife Student Loan provides a solution to help individuals and young families reduce their student loan payments to help them qualify for a mortgage and get them into a home.” (BetterLife is trademarked, fyi.)

To some the dream of home ownership is becoming a reality due to this program. One of our employees has taken advantage of this program recently and it has made a huge difference in their life.

A better life, a better future, and a better community! Priceless!

—The Wombat!

Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is president and CEO of The Copper River Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Fargo, N. D., that focuses on technology and payment systems research and consulting for community financial institutions. For nearly 30 years, Fisher has worked in the financial industry using technology to improve the bottom line. He was CIO of Community First Bankshares (now part of Bank of the West), has served as a director of the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, the chairman of the American Bankers Association Payment Systems Committee, and was a member of the Independent Community Bankers of America Payments Committee. Fisher has written numerous articles on banking technology and the payments system. He has authored or co-authored six books and recently published a book titled, "Capturing Your Customer! The New Technology of Remote Deposit." You can contact Fisher at [email protected] or at 701-293-6222.
P.S. To understand Dan's nickname, check out "About the Wombat" on his website.       

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