GRBblog

Welcome to the GRBblog! Get to know GRB, Rochester's only locally owned and managed commercial bank. A commercial bank, but also a community bank, with an entrepreneurial spirit about everything we do. We're committed to Growing Rochester Business and making our community a better place to live and work.

The GRBblog is where we post bank news and information, stories about the great organizations we support, and share relevant local and national business news.


Genesee Regional Bank Announces New Board Leadership

Steven Sauer has been selected as new Chairman of the Board for Genesee Regional Bank (GRB). E. Philip Saunders is becoming Chairman of Greater Rochester Bancorp., GRB’s holding company.

Steven Sauer photo

Genesee Regional Bank Chairman of the Board Steven Sauer

E. Philip Saunders photo

E. Philip Saunders, Chairman of the Board for Greater Rochester Bancorp

Genesee Regional Bank (GRB), a locally owned and operated bank specializing in commercial banking, personal banking, and residential mortgage lending, announces that after 23 years in the role, E. Philip Saunders has decided to step down as Chairman of the Board. Saunders will remain a Director of the GRB Board and continue to serve as Chairman of the bank’s holding company, Greater Rochester Bancorp. Longtime GRB board member Steven Sauer has been selected as the bank’s new Chairman. The new roles are effective immediately.

“GRB has enjoyed significant growth since its inception, and we see tremendous opportunity for continued growth in the future. Mr. Saunders’ leadership has shaped GRB from top to bottom. His ability to engage and guide GRB team members and directors has been essential to the bank’s success to date,” said GRB President and CEO Philip L. Pecora. “With Saunders as Chair since 2001, assets have grown from $48 million to $1.1 billion, and the bank has been recognized as one of the best performing community banks in the country—and in 2023, the only bank recognized in New York State—by both S&P Global Market Intelligence and the Independent Community Bankers Association. Bringing Sauer in as the new Chair ensures the continuity and steadfast commitment of our Board of Directors as they support GRB’s focus on delivering exceptional service to our valued clients. Mr. Saunders, who has driven the entrepreneurial spirit of GRB from its beginning, will remain integral in setting the bank’s overall strategic vision.”

E. Philip Saunders

E. Philip Saunders is a business icon in the Greater Rochester region, founding and investing in a wide range of businesses throughout his more than 65-year business career. The CEO of Saunders Management, Saunders’ is known for both his business acumen and philanthropic work. He founded Griffith Energy, Sugar Creek Stores, T/A, and Travel Centers of America, and has made impactful donations to colleges, hospitals, museums, and many other charitable organizations. Saunders has spent a tremendous amount of time mentoring both students and colleagues to help the Greater Rochester community thrive.

When selecting the new Chairperson to lead GRB, Saunders saw in Sauer the qualities needed to guide the bank’s growth while staying true to its mission of serving our local communities.

“Steve has been a valued member of the GRB Board of Directors for almost 20 years. Working with him so closely over the years made it clear that he was the right choice to keep moving the bank – and the Greater Rochester community – in the right direction,” said Saunders. “With Steve’s previous commercial banking experience, you have the perfect blend of business insight and community focus. He represents the dynamic progression that we want for GRB. I look forward to continuing working with him to further GRB’s community banking mission.”

Steven Sauer

Steven Sauer, a member of GRB’s Board of Directors since 2005, brings a broad range of experience to the position of Chairman of the Board at GRB. Sauer began his career in banking as a commercial lender before joining a small business. As COO and then CEO of Business Methods, Inc., Sauer turned the struggling company around and grew it to more than $30 million in revenue before selling it to Toshiba in 2004. Sauer stayed on with Toshiba Business Systems (TBS), holding a variety of regional and sales positions before being named president of TBS in 2020. Last year, Sauer was promoted to the role of Chief Revenue Officer for Toshiba America Business Solutions and is responsible for increasing the company’s revenue and profitability via its U.S. direct and indirect sales channels.

Like Saunders, Sauer has given back to the Rochester community in numerous ways, previously holding Chairman of the Board roles for both Young Entrepreneurs Academy and Unity Health Foundation, and President of the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County. He’s been recognized as a leader in the Rochester business community throughout his career as Chamber of Commerce “Small Businessperson of the Year,” Rochester Business Journal Forty Under 40 recipient, and Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County “Volunteer of the Year.”

Sauer holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York College at Geneseo. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive Education Owner/President Management Program.

“Carrying on the mission of GRB is an extraordinary opportunity. I am grateful to be in a position where I can lead GRB’s Board and continue to help support the local business community,” said Sauer. “Mr. Saunders has always set an example for the GRB Board and its executive leadership. He is an unwavering champion for small business owners. As Chairman of the Board, I plan to follow that path and stay true to GRB’s founding principles.”


GRB President and CEO Philip Pecora Named to Power 100 for 2024

We are proud to announce that GRB President and CEO Philip L. Pecora was named to the Rochester Business Journal’s Power 100 List for 2024. The Power 100 recognizes community leaders making a positive impact on the Greater Rochester region.

Leadership in the Region

We are proud to announce that GRB President and CEO Philip L. Pecora was named to the Rochester Business Journal’s Power 100 List for 2024. The Power 100 recognizes community leaders making a positive impact on the Greater Rochester region.

GRB President and CEO Philip Pecora

According to RBJ Associate Editor and Publisher Ben Jacobs, “As with last year, the mix of industries represented is no surprise.

“The health care industry and the nonprofit sector, which are heavily intertwined in Rochester, have faced significant challenges over the past four years and many leaders from these areas appear on this list.

“We are optimistic that the people and organizations listed here will play a large role in helping Rochester continue to move forward and grow into the best community it can be.” 

Looking Back on 2023

Responding to the RBJ’s questions, Pecora noted the challenges faced by both businesses and consumers as interest rates rose quickly throughout the last few years. But he also explained that the Fed has shifted its stance and may be prepared to begin trimming rates, which will be good news across the board.

“…My biggest accomplishment was working with my team through this difficult period; coming out of it with GRB in even better position to continue on our consistent growth path and serving the banking needs of our community.”

On a personal note, Pecora shared that if he wasn’t in banking, he would likely be in the construction industry.

“Similar to banking, in construction you play an integral role in helping a client improve their position — whether it’s an individual building a new home, an investor constructing a new project or a company investing in a new facility. I take great pride in being a part of the growth and success of others.”

GRB’s Growth

Power 100 logo

GRB was established by Founders E. Philip Saunders and partner Dan Gullace in 1996. Their goal was to re-establish a community bank presence and grow small business in the Rochester area. Since that time the bank has continued on a consistent growth path with more than a billion dollars in assets. 

Under Pecora’s leadership, GRB spent the last three years focusing on bringing financial stability to small businesses and consumers. The bank supported the small business community during the Paycheck Protection Program and earned a Gold Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for its small business lending activities last year.

We are proud of GRB’s community commitment and proud to have Pecora’s efforts recognized as part of the Power 100.

Read more on Phil’s Power 100 profile on the RBJ website.

Congratulations!


Know the Signs of Bank Text Message Spoofing

Bank spoofing via text is a deceptive tactic employed by cybercriminals to trick individuals into divulging sensitive financial information or executing fraudulent transactions.

These spoofing attempts often involve sending text messages that appear to originate from legitimate financial institutions, such as banks or credit card companies. The messages typically contain urgent requests for account verification, password resets, or notifications of suspicious activity, prompting recipients to click on links or provide personal details.

To avoid falling victim to bank spoofing via text, individuals should exercise caution and adopt the following preventive measures:

Fake or Real?

Take your time and consider previous interactions with your financial institution before responding to a text message link.

  1. Verify the Sender: Always verify the authenticity of text messages purportedly sent by your bank or financial institution. Legitimate messages usually come from official contact numbers or short codes, not random phone numbers.
  2. Do Not Click Links: Avoid clicking on links embedded within unsolicited text messages, especially those requesting account login credentials or sensitive personal information. If you want to confirm that the message is legitimate, visit GRB’s website directly by typing the URL into your browser or using your online banking app directly.
  3. Beware of Urgency: Cybercriminals often create a sense of urgency to pressure recipients into taking immediate action. Be wary of text messages that claim your account is compromised or requires urgent attention, especially if you didn’t initiate the communication.
  4. Never Reply or Unsubscribe: Legitimate companies will offer you a STOP option to unsubscribe from text message marketing…and will likely honor your request. Scammers will not. By responding to a spam text, you’re confirming to the scammer that the number is valid. From there, your phone number may be sold to other scammers, increasing your odds of receiving scam texts. 
  5. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implementing 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary form of verification, such as a code sent to your mobile device, before accessing your account. This can thwart unauthorized access even if your login credentials are compromised.
  6. Educate Yourself: Stay informed about common phishing and smishing tactics. GRB’s customer newsletters often contain fraud prevention information and our website has resources, as well. Take advantage of them as a way to enhance your cyber security awareness.

By remaining vigilant, individuals can reduce the risk of falling victim to bank spoofing via text and safeguard their financial assets and personal information from cybercriminals. Think before you click!

Additional Resources

GRB Security Resources web page

American Bankers Association Phishing Scams web page

Federal Trade Commission article on “How to Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages”


Giving Back

Small Businesses Make a Big Impact

Financially speaking, 75% of small business owners donate an average of 6% of their profits to charitable organizations annually. According to data compiled by SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors, small businesses donate 250% more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes.

Image of utility repair trucks trying to make repairs amid ice-covered trees and downed limbs.

Giving back not only fosters goodwill, it also contributes to the overall well-being of employees and the community. Small businesses often go beyond direct financial donations, offering more creative and targeted ways to engage employees and make a difference. Consider:

  1. Employee Volunteer Programs: Encouraging and facilitating employee volunteerism allows businesses to extend their impact beyond monetary donations. Employees can actively participate in community service, contributing their time and skills to various projects.
  2. Education and Skill Development Programs: Businesses can invest in the future by supporting education and skill development initiatives. This can include scholarships, mentorship programs, and workshops that empower individuals within the community.
  3. Meal Donations: Providing a “fill the box” opportunity to battle food insecurity. For Thanksgiving, employee teams might provide the box and canned goods while the company purchases gift cards for the turkey.
  4. Supporting Local Organizations: Just like choosing local suppliers and vendors when possible helps stimulate economic growth within the community, supporting local non-profits can help address specific challenges in the region.
  5. Match Employee Fundraising: When employees donate their own funds to a cause, a corporate match is a great way to double the impact.
  6. Make the Big Check Meaningful: A corporate donation is always welcome, but most nonprofits are thrilled to have the opportunity to go out in the community and talk to people about what they do. Invite the nonprofit in for a “Big Check” presentation and gather employees for a 10-minute overview about the charity.
  7. Make it Competitive: Have some fun. Run an employee March Madness pool or a cook-off fundraisers. Let the winner select the charity for the corporate donation.
  8. Local Partnerships and Sponsorships: Collaborating with local businesses, events, or sports teams through partnerships or sponsorships not only promotes community engagement but also helps boost the local economy.
  9. In-kind Donations: Businesses can donate products or services to community organizations, schools, or events. This form of giving back provides valuable resources to those in need.

There are many diverse and meaningful ways for businesses to give back to the community. By aligning their efforts with the specific needs of the local area, businesses of all sizes can create a positive and lasting impact that extends far beyond their day-to-day operations.


2023 Tax Information

Tax documents for 2023 will be available on the following timelines

GRB Deposit Accounts and Portfolio Loans

All 1098s/1099s for GRB deposit accounts and portfolio loans were available electronically on Jan. 25, 2024 for customers who selected this option in GRBonline

For those who requested a printed document, all 1098s/1099s will be printed and mailed by Jan. 31, 2024. 

Files for all 1098/1099 reporting will be transmitted to the IRS on Feb. 28, 2024.

Health Savings Accounts

HSA and IRA customers can make prior year contributions through April 15, 2024.  As such, all 5498s (for IRA and HSA contributions) will be created after processing on April 15, 2024.  The forms will be printed and mailed beginning on May 6, 2024.

Mortgage Information

For mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and serviced by TMS on behalf of GRB, 1098s were mailed to customers with their monthly statement by Jan. 21, 2024.  Electronic year-end statements were sent via email by Jan. 14, 2024.  These documents will also be available in the borrower portal.

For mortgages sold to other investors, the investor sends out the 1098s. 

GRB 1098s were mailed on Jan. 24, 2024 for:

  • Any points/interest paid at closing
  • Any upfront PMI payments 

Corrections

A correction file (for any adjusted information) will be created by the data center on June 10, 2024.  Any corrections after that date will require a paper correction form, submitted directly to the IRS.

If you have questions about the information on your 1098/1099, please contact our team.


A Return to Cash is King

Businesses Offer Discounts to Customers Who Pay with Cash

As a response to rising credit card transaction fees, some businesses are encouraging customers to move away from plastic by offering an incentive: discounts for paying in cash. And more consumers, carefully managing their budgets in an environment of higher prices, may be amenable to the offer.

Cafe owner taking cash payment from customer

The perfect storm

“It may be the perfect storm for a return of cash,” said Paul Keenan, GRB’s Senior Vice President Retail Operations. “You have cost-sensitive businesses and price-sensitive consumers. Combine that with surcharge-free ATMs and the table is set for a cash resurgence.”

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta released in 2023 noted that the share of cash purchases that included discounts jumped 66% between 2015 and 2022.

“It makes sense to stop at an ATM for three minutes and take out cash if you’re going to get a discount,” said Keenan. “At GRB, we offer surcharge-free ATMs through the STAR, Allpoint and MoneyPass networks. That’s upwards of 100,000 ATMs available across the U.S. and around the world. Without ATM surcharges, it’s much easier to decide to pay with cash.”

Who offers cash discounts?

Smaller service providers are more likely to offer a cash incentive than larger chains or nationwide providers. This is because larger chains can negotiate a better fee structure for credit card purchases than local retailers. But if you’re already focused on supporting local establishments, a lower price for paying in cash may just be an additional benefit.

Most businesses offering a discount will post it prominently. Often, professional services companies (contractors, plumbers, etc.) deliver quotes with a discount option for payment in cash. But even if a cash discount policy isn’t posted, consider asking for one if you plan on making a large purchase.

“Small businesses know the cost of credit card processing fees and usually have the ability to be flexible in how they accept payments. Offering to pay with cash to receive a discount can be a win-win,” said Keenan. “As long as you respect the answer you receive, whether it’s yes or no, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

If you want some first-hand information on cash-friendly businesses, consider posting on local social media sites or talking to friends and neighbors.

Privacy weighs in

Another trend working in the favor of cash is the desire for more privacy in our financial footprint. Data security and privacy breaches have been rampant the last few years and consumers are more cautious. The emphasis on privacy makes a cash purchase more appealing.

“Cash payments offer privacy, which resonates with many consumers,” noted Megan Antonitto, GRB’s Rick Management Officer. “Whether your concern is limiting your financial risk or just not ruining a surprise gift for your spouse, cash offers anonymity.”

Considerations

But before you cut up your credit cards and vow to only use cash, it’s essential to acknowledge that cash isn’t a solution for every situation. Carrying large amounts of cash can also be risky and online purchases aren’t possible. In addition, credit card companies may help intervene with a retailer if a purchase made with their card does not meet expectations.

“There will always be a place for credit cards,” said Keenan. “But using cash can help consumers and small businesses save some money. That helps everyone.”


Second Round of Homebuyer Dream Program Opens with Grants up to $10,000

Homebuyer Dream Program logo

As a bank, GRB is able to work with the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY) to provide grant assistance to qualified first-time homebuyers. A second round of the Homebuyer Dream ProgramTM is open with grants of up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a home in New York. This is a program that is only available to members of the FHLBNY, mortgage brokers are not able to access grant funds for this program.

The FHLBNY uses an allotment program, providing lenders with a set amount of funding for the year. Funds are distributed to homebuyers on a first come, first serve basis.

The program is accepting applications for funds now and funds are limited.

This means it is critical that prospective Homebuyer Dream applicants begin working with their GRB mortgage originator now in order to be ready to apply when the program opens. GRB has team members able to serve residents throughout Western and Central New York.

Find out if you qualify

For more information, contact our mortgage professionals.

It doesn’t cost anything to be prequalified and it puts you in the best position to be ready to buy.

Homebuyer Dream Program* (HDP) eligibility requirements

  • Must be first-time homebuyers**
  • Reside in and be purchasing a home in New York state
  • Have a household income at or below 80% of area median income
  • Complete an accredited homeownership course
  • Meet the income and credit requirements for the program
  • Have the minimum equity contribution of $1,000 toward purchase of the home
  • Remain in the home for five years or repay a portion of the grant funds back to FHLBNY

Important information

Grant funding is available for:

  • Down payment and closing costs
  • Cost of a homeownership education course

Please note, the information in this post refers to the second round of funding for the 2024 HDP. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York assesses the HDP on an annual basis and the program is subject to change. Please go to our Mortgage Loans page for more information on the HDP and other grant and lending options.

*Homebuyer Dream Program is a trademark of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

**First-time homebuyer as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), is an individual who meets any of the following criteria:

  • An individual who has had no ownership in a principal residence during the 3-year period ending on the date of the purchase of the property. This includes a spouse (if meets the above test, they are considered first-time homebuyers).
  • A single parent who has only owned a principal residence with a former spouse while married.
  • Individual who is a displaced homemaker and has only owned a principal residence with a spouse.
  • An individual who has only owned a principal residence not permanently affixed to a permanent foundation in accordance with applicable regulations.
  • An individual who has only owned a property that was not in compliance with state, local or model building codes and could not be brought into compliance for less than the cost of constructing a permanent structure.


Building a Culture of Information Security in Your Business

Make Information Security Part of Your Company’s Values

Researchers from Stanford University and a top cybersecurity organization found that approximately 88 percent of all data breaches are caused by an employee mistake.

Panicked man sitting at computer.

In an era where digital threats and cyber-attacks have become increasingly sophisticated, fostering a culture of information security within your company is not just a good practice; it’s a business imperative. A robust information security culture goes beyond implementing the latest security technologies. It involves instilling a mindset of vigilance and responsibility among employees at all levels.

Creating a culture of security needs to be embedded in every part of the organization, rather than leaving it to the IT department or other risk or security specialists. It needs to encompass everything from leadership buy in to policies and training:

1. Demonstrate the Commitment of Leadership

The foundation of a strong information security culture starts at the top. Leadership must actively endorse and prioritize information security initiatives. This commitment should be evident in both words and actions, demonstrating to employees that protecting sensitive data is a fundamental aspect of the company’s values.

2. Develop Comprehensive Training Programs

Equip your employees with the knowledge and skills they need to recognize and respond to potential security threats. Develop comprehensive training programs that cover topics such as phishing awareness, secure password management, and data handling procedures. Regularly update these programs to address emerging threats and technologies.

Phishing simulation software can also be an effective way to test your training and awareness programs, helping evaluate how employees respond to attacks in their inboxes and providing insight into additional tools and resources they may need manage threats. 

3. Encourage Learning, Not Punishment

If employees fear retribution, they may be more inclined to hide cybersecurity incidents instead of reporting them. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable reporting security incidents without fear of reprisal. Establish clear communication channels for reporting potential threats, and ensure that incidents are promptly and thoroughly investigated. Encourage a sense of collective responsibility for the organization’s security.

4. Establish Formal Policies

Help your employees know exactly what they should and should not do with formal policies on a range of information security-related topics, including, but not limited to: 

  • An acceptable use policy
  • A human resources policy
  • A data classification policy
  • An asset management policy
  • An email policy
  • A password policy
  • An encryption policy
  • An incident response reporting policy

5. Conduct Regular Security Audits

Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities in your systems and processes. This proactive approach helps in addressing potential issues before they can be exploited by bad actors. Regular audits also demonstrate the organization’s commitment to maintaining a secure environment.

6. Recognize and Reward Security Efforts

Acknowledge and reward employees who actively contribute to maintaining a secure environment. This recognition reinforces the importance of information security and motivates others to actively participate in safeguarding the organization.


GRB Chief Operating Officer Allana Lazeroff Digital Banking Technology with the RBJ

Digital banking use is increasing and banks need to be prepared to offer a high-tech and high-touch experience.

Statista estimates that by 2025 there will be more than 217 million digital banking users, an increase of 10 percent since 2021. In a discussion with the Rochester Business Journal, Lazeroff discusses the challenges and opportunities that the digital banking environment presents to financial institutions and where GRB has found success.

Chief Operating Officer Allana Lazeroff
Chief Operating Officer Allana Lazeroff

Lazeroff noted that customers are looking for support in both transactional items, like making a deposit or paying a bill online, and more complex pursuits, like applying for a mortgage.

“I think there’s a pretty high expectation that those things can be done digitally and seamlessly from wherever you are, whenever you want to make those transactions,” Lazeroff said.

The pandemic certainly had an impact in pushing technology adoption in the banking world. One example is GRB’s online application process for home mortgages.

“We have a full process whereby somebody can apply for a mortgage loan and that whole process can be handled digitally and it’s seamless,” Lazeroff said. “It’s been very successful, and we continue to build upon that.”

But she is also quick to point out that there is still a need for personal interactions in banking.

“We very much believe, and we certainly continue to see in our data from our marketplace, that there’s also the need and the interest to marry that seamless digital delivery with a high touch, relationship-oriented approach,” said Lazeroff.

Banking .

Read the whole article >


GRB Chief Lending Officer Tim Jones Talks Commercial Real Estate Trends with the RBJ

It’s hard to talk to anyone these days without interest rates coming up as a topic of conversation. From homebuyers to businesses, interest rates have a significant impact on spending and lending.

While the Fed works to strike a balance between tempering inflation and initiating a recession, local real estate developers are looking at different strategies to keep moving forward. In a recent article published by the Rochester Business Journal, GRB Chief Lending Officer Tim Jones discusses the state of commercial real estate development in the region.

Chief Lending Officer Tim Jones

The discussion stems from a recent press release from Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Yun called for the Fed to cut interest rates as a way to help both the commercial real estate and banking industries.

“Commercial real estate transaction activity has been cut in half in two years,” said Yun in a news release from the NAR referencing national trends. “The condition for real estate deals is difficult. They (owners) simply don’t want to sell at a lower price, so commercial deals are not happening, because sellers don’t want to lower the price, and buyers aren’t jumping in due to higher lending costs.”

Jones has seen similar challenges reflected in the local market. But that doesn’t mean development and lending have come to a standstill. GRB sees opportunity in the market as larger banks, facing additional pressure from regulators, pull back on their lending activities.

“There’s a lot of liquidity pressure on the banks,” Jones said. “Federal regulators and bank examiners want to be sure banks are liquid enough. That forces you, as a larger bank especially, to be more conservative in how much you lend.

Jones also noted that developers are looking at more creative financing options.

“Some developers are looking at putting more equity in their projects to get them off the ground,” Jones said. “Instead of financing 80 percent, maybe they’re only going to finance 60 percent with the bank and they’ll go out and raise more equity.”

While it may currently be hard to see past the interest rates, it is important for real estate developers to stay focused on longer-term goals. Rates are temporary, while good real estate projects remain a viable investment.

Read the whole article >