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October 31, 2017Oct 31, 2017

HOW TO GUARD AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT WITHOUT RELYING ON A THIRD-PARTY TOOL

In light of the many high-profile security breaches at EquifaxDeep Root Analytics, and Yahoo over the last couple of years, it’s more important than ever to ensure your private information is kept as secure as possible. The unfortunate nature of these cybersecurity compromises is that even with a small amount of information, malicious agents could open a credit card, apply for a loan, or even purchase medical treatments and prescription drugs in your name - all without your knowledge. However, there are several methods by which you can improve your security and protect against aggressive, criminal acts that could plague you for years to come, even without using a third-party identity protection tool like LifeLock or TrustedID
Diversify Your Passwords

It’s the oldest cybersecurity trick in the book, but one of the easiest to implement: keeping your passwords fluid, strong, and diverse. While nearly everyone uses the same password for everything to keep things simple for themselves, it also works in the inverse, making it easy for hackers who guess or recover your password on one service and utilizing that information to gain access to more sensitive information such as online banking, credit card accounts, and government services. By using a password management tool like 1Password or LastPass, you’ll have your passwords randomized to military-grade standards and within easy reach behind a master password, which is the only one you’ll ever need to remember.
Keep Your Information Close to the Chest

If you don’t have a shredder for your sensitive documents, you should invest in one. While it’s unlikely that someone would go through your trash to find credit card, banking, and tax statements, it’s an easy precaution to take to ensure that doesn’t occur. Furthermore, only sharing your personal information with verified agents of financial institutions and keeping your sensitive information in secured hard drives or a safe (or both) is the best chance to guard against unwanted access.

Know How to Use Freezes and Fraud Alerts


Imagine this scenario: you review your monthly bank and credit card statements and you find a questionable purchase or transaction on your account. You contact your financial institution to ask about the purchase, only to learn that it was authorized by you. Having no knowledge of that transaction, your next step is to cancel it or freeze the transaction. Problem solved, right? Unfortunately, even a small questionable transaction can be a sign that your information has been compromised, meaning you need to go a step further and freeze your credit entirely until the issue is solved. Hackers often test the veracity and suitability of an acquired account to see how functional it may be for their continued use. Starting with a small transaction, they’ll monitor your response and see if any action is taken. If so, they’ll move quickly to maximize your credit’s usefulness and erase their tracks before you discover the scope of the intrusion. You’ll want to do the following:

Place a Security Freeze on Your Credit Report

Placing a credit freeze with all three reporting agencies will seal your credit reports and require you to use a personal identification number in order to temporarily “thaw” or release restrictions on your credit to allow for processing of legitimate applications for credit and services. While this won’t affect any credit accounts that have already been opened or established, you can add an extra layer of security to protect against additional lines of credit opened without your consent.
Enable a Fraud Alert on Your Credit

This move will force potential creditors to think twice before extending a line of credit in your name. While this is considered a speed bump for a practiced identity thief, it will slow their progress and keep you abreast of any changes in your credit history.

Monitor Your Credit Closely


Depending on your financial institution, you may already have access to free credit reporting tools that won’t affect your credit score (unlike requesting the reports from the big three reporting agencies). Otherwise, using a subscription service like Credit Karma will provide you with regular insights you’ll need to ensure your credit score remains on the straight and narrow. Otherwise, requesting your annual credit report from TransUnionEquifax, and/or Experian is a decent option. Just remember that frequent credit checks can affect your score, so be careful when and how you choose to request these reports.
September 8, 2017Sep 8, 2017

EQUIFAX BREACH

Many of you have learned of the security breach of Equifax, a major U.S. credit reporting agency. It has been reported that personal information from approximately 143MM U.S. consumers was potentially compromised. There are things that you can do to protect your finances, like checking your bank statements for suspicious activity, and frequently utilizing online banking. Bank of Bozeman takes extra measures to protect our clients by subscribing to a 24-hour fraud monitoring system. We get alerts of suspicious activity on our clients debit cards. Rest assured that we are here to help assist you if you feel your identity has been compromised.

Please read these articles from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Wall Street Journal that will outline known details of the breach and steps you can take to protect your financial security and identity

https://www.wsj.com/articles/5-ways-to-protect-your-finances-after-equifax-data-breach-1504835080

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do?utm_source=govdelivery
September 8, 2017Sep 8, 2017

Fed Raises Rates: Growth Forecasted

As predicted, the Fed raised rates 25 bps to 1.25%.  Bank of Bozeman increased some of our rates for deposits.    The prime rate increased correspondingly to 4.25%, but long-term mortgage rates are at some of their lowest levels all year.   So we have good news for both borrowers and savers - how is that possible?

It is a function of a flattening yield curve.  The “yield curve” is simply the yield of each Treasury bond along the maturity spectrum plotted on a graph.  The yield curve typically slopes upward, since investors need to be compensated with higher yields for assuming the added risk of investing longer term.   The graph below shows Treasury rates from last December compared to now.  You will notice that short term rates are increasing and yet long term rates are dropping and the curve is still sloped upward to the right.   The shape of this curve suggests both the Federal Reserve and the public markets believe we are entering a phase of growth with low inflation – just what the doctor ordered. 

The Fed may have another short term rate increase in store for this year.  If the yield curve gets too flat, the Fed can start to influence long term rates by selling some of its securities.  It owns around $4.5 trillion in bonds (yes, trillion), primarily consisting of Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed Securities.   So by raising short term rates and selling its bond portfolio, perhaps the Fed can keep us headed toward that goldilocks’ yield curve where depositors get paid more interest and yet borrowers have great rates.

Because most of you have lived through a number of economic cycles, you are probably discounting the likelihood of this ideal yield curve from happening.   There always seems to be a major event or two that get us off the right economic path.   Or our government takes actions which undermine the economy.   As of this moment, it is a good time both to save and to borrow- so come by the Bank and let us help you take advantage of the season!
June 29, 2017Jun 29, 2017

SUCCESS STORY, DINO DROP-IN

Dino Drop-In opened the doors to its first location in March of 2016. Just 9 weeks earlier Jessica Dehn, had discovered a business partner on a sledding hill. Already friends, the two mom's began building a drop-in that would raise the standards of drop-in care in the Gallatin Valley while initiating Jessica's larger goal of revolutionizing the way we deliver childcare in the United States.
Jessica Dehn - Our initial financing came via a loan from my partners parents which allowed us to build out our first space off of 19th in Bozeman. We set aggressive start up goals and daily checked items our miles of to-dos. There were lots of late nights and 12+ hour work days but by mid-summer we were hopping busy by 8:30 am and its only gotten better. The Bozeman community loves our enriching, screen-free environment, skilled teachers, and the convenience we provide to stay and home and working parents, alike. Children can stay for an hour or all day and parents know they are learning and having fun while they are away.
Along with our success Dino Drop-In's first year also brought challenges. After my partner moved across the state, I had a dilemma; continue the partnership with an absentee partner, sell the business, or buy her out. The decision was mutual. The ideal solution would be a buy out but with only 6 months of financials, bank financing seemed unlikely.

"I stared at the room full of children and asked myself: how can we harvest their delight and use it for the greater good?"
Enter, Clinton Gerst from the Bank of Bozeman. I was one of the founders of 1 Million Cups Bozeman, which Bank of Bozeman sponsors and Clinton attends monthly. After meetings he and I would often linger discussing possible buy out plans and how to navigate the sale. When my partner finally agreed to sell, I was elated, I had such big plans, & I was prepared to go to every bank in town if that's what it took. One day I happily announced to Clinton, its time to start shopping for a bank my partner agreed to sell me her portion! Clinton replied, "No need to shop, just stop on in." That's what I did.
I was introduced to Dan Welch. Originally from Belgrade, Dan had great insight on my business. After reviewing our short track record he seemed confident Bank of Bozeman could help. I was honestly shocked that we could put something together so quickly. It seemed like it was just a week or two and every thing was all ready. The buy out closed in late October 2016 but it was just the start.

The financing not only allowed me to buy the Bozeman location but after just two months we were looking at locations in Belgrade for expansion. We found one in the Town & Country complex off Madison and moved quickly to open in late January 2017. An expansion that has doubled my business while allowing a much needed flexible daycare option in Belgrade.

From day one Dan has been my sounding board and an alternative perspective through change and growth of the business. Whenever I have a new opportunity come my way I bring him ideas and financial projections and he gives me sound financial advice on my plans. As a person has an extreme risk tolerance, I appreciate having Dan & Clinton as trusted advisers who keep me on sound financial footing.

In the months since I have also grow to know many of the staff at Bank of Bozeman and have had nothing but great experiences. The team is a great partner in my business.
April 5, 2017Apr 5, 2017

Success Story, The Lindley House

In January 2016 we purchased a beautiful historic downtown Bozeman home, on Lindley Place, with the intent to completely renovate it and run it as a Bed & Breakfast. When we purchased the home, we used seller financing, which allowed us to begin renovating right away. This was done with the goal of being ready for guest reservations for the upcoming summer season. It also gave us time to sell our existing home that we had built in Baxter Meadows (which ended up getting an offer five days after we listed it). After the closing, we moved into the top room with our youngest daughter (who attends MSU) in what felt like a college dorm situation and immediately began demolition. Doing it this way required an enormous amount of optimism since we were counting on eventually finding the right lender to help with our final permanent financing. 

At a whirlwind pace, with long evenings/weekends around Jordan’s regular full-time job at Lexis Nexis, we worked our way through the renovation. How did people do things like this without YouTube? Our experience put us in touch with some wonderful craftsmen of various fields (wood flooring,tape/texturing over wallpapered plaster walls, trim work, staircases and tile). We learned to use tools we had never heard of and gained a few more gray hairs. Our first guests arrived at The Lindley House on June 5​th​ and that first summer we had 98.6 % occupancy seven days a week! We continued to work on completing the remaining areas of renovation while learning how to run a new business. I served breakfast in the morning, cleaned lots of bathrooms, did loads of laundry and then put on my renovation work clothes. It was a very busy, tiring, exciting time for us.

During all of this, we felt some anxiety about finding the right person to help us figure out our permanent loan. We knew we needed someone that would recognize and feel the passion we felt for how much effort we had put into this home and the changes we had made. We needed someone that would understand/recognize the Bozeman market and catch the vision for our new B&B with only six months under our belt.  

We needn’t have worried because when we were introduced to Mark Gannon at Bank of Bozeman, things just fell into place. From that first meeting at our dining room table, he made us feel like we could trust him. He asked questions, walked through every part of the home, listened to what we had done, looked at our projections/results and explained the process. He was professional, calm mannered, matter of fact and upfront about our options. No matter how many questions we asked – he always found the answers. As things required adjusting, he was willing to explore what was needed to help us continue the process. He was willing to go to bat for us. It was so reassuring to feel complete confidence in him.

The day we went into his office to sign the initial loan agreement he walked us all around the bank, introducing us to everyone. We met various people who had been part of the process, had read our B&B reviews, looked at our website and participated in approving our loan. We met Laura Benson, our commercial loan administrator, who was absolutely wonderful to work with. We also met Susan Hillyerd, our Financial Services Representative, who helped us get our business and personal accounts opened as we moved everything over from our previous bank. Everyone was friendly, shook our hands and made us feel welcome. 

This local bank experience has been completely different for us! As a new business owner, this could have been so stressful, overwhelming and much less personal. Instead we feel like we’ve been welcomed into the Bank of Bozeman family. As we continue to work at our new B&B business, we know we can count on them and have confidence that they will help guide us through any future financial decisions. We now understand, in a very personal way, the difference a local community bank can make.