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.


Safe Online and Mobile Banking

Man using his mobile phone and a laptop computer

Financial institutions use a wide range of security protocols to make sure customer information stays safe and secure for online and mobile banking. But customers also have a significant amount of power when it comes to stopping hackers and thieves in their tracks. Follow these suggestions for keeping your online and mobile banking access secure.

Don’t do your banking on public Wi-Fi

It may be tempting to use the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi to pay your bills while you grab a latte, but keep banking activities limited to private networks. You can, however, use your smartphone and a data plan – rather than Wi-Fi – to access bank account information securely. Make sure you are always using an encrypted website. Look for the https in the website address – the “s” is important!

Set up your account to receive text alerts

You can set up online and mobile banking to send you alerts via text or email whenever certain transactions (or any transaction) is made. If someone is trying to gain unauthorized access to your account, you’ll know immediately and can notify your financial institution. This is a powerful real-time fraud deterrent.

Create challenging passwords and change them frequently

This is a strong preventative measure, but it’s also the one that people often ignore. Even though it can be difficult changing passwords, it can be one of the best ways to protect yourself from hacking attempts. Use combinations with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. The longer and more complex the password, the harder it will be for a hacker to figure it out. See our Blog post on creating unique passwords.

Put anti-virus software on every device

Make it a regular habit to check the status of your anti-virus protection. A little investment in good anti-virus software is a necessity for your home computers and mobile devices. Make sure it’s on every device and keep it up to date.

Financial institutions employ significant security measures to ensure safe online and mobile banking. At GRB, we encourage users to employ additional protections to minimize the risk of unauthorized access to their accounts. A little protection can go a long way to maintaining a safe online and mobile banking environment.

Beware of phishing scams

SMS and email scammers may try to imitate your bank to convince you to give up personal or account information. If you are unsure about a request, always reach out to your bank on a phone number you know is legitimate to verify.

Customize your lock screen

Fingerprint scanners, Face ID, and passwords for your phone can all help deter thieves from gaining access to your smartphone – and your bank account. But most phones still permit users to access notifications, the automated assistant (Siri, Google, etc.), and certain apps when the phone is locked. Use your phone’s privacy and security settings to tweak your lock screen features for added protection.

Click for more Security Resources.


Unique Passwords Build Your Defense Against Hackers

Image displays a paint roller with a corn cob instead of cloth, and a light bulb made of pink fur. The text displayed on the graphic is made to say "Stay Safe, Be Unique."

We’ve all done it – use the same passwords for multiple accounts because it’s just easier. Well, it’s also easier for hackers. By repeating passwords or using similar variations, you are essentially creating a master key. Once hackers have your key, they have access to everything. But creating unique passwords can help stop hackers in their tracks.

It pays to be creative

Protecting your information online is vital. Though it may take more time, it is important to develop unique passwords for every account you hold. Password reuse is one of the leading causes of account compromises. Some of the largest and most costly data breaches started with a single compromised password.

But what defense do we have against tech-savvy hackers? It’s as simple as creativity. Your password should be unique and complex. If your password is too simple or too short, hackers will have a clear path to your information. If they go so far as to steal your identity, the damage can be devastating: financial losses, credit damage, emotional distress, and even a criminal record if the thief uses your identity to commit other crimes.

Staying safe and secure

Remembering every password you create can be difficult, but it’s even harder to recover from a malicious online attack. Creating a strong unique password is your first line of defense against hackers. Follow the simple “Do’s and Don’ts” for creating strong passwords and build your defenses today:

Do’s

  • Make your password L O N G – 12 characters is a good minimum for passwords
  • Combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols within the code
  • Use a password manager, and let the system create a password for you

Don’ts

  • Never reuse passwords!
  • Avoid symbol substitutions, they’re easily detected by hackers – i.e. using @ for the letter A
  • Common words and phrases are easy to crack, make it more complex!
  • Avoid using passwords that hold personal significance to you

GRB Security Resources

Visit our Security Resources page to find more information and resources on how you can keep your information safe.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud, use our Report Fraud page to get help.


Homebuyers with Student Loan Debt Get FHA Relief

We’ve all heard it – younger generations aren’t spending like generations before, but it doesn’t take long to understand why. With the rising cost of tuition and subsequent increase in student loan debt, it became challenging for young graduates to gain access to loan programs that allowed them to purchase a home. But that changes with the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) new lending guidelines for homebuyers with student loan debt.

Effective immediately, the Mortgagee Letter (ML) 2021-13, or, Student Loan Payment Calculation of Monthly Obligation, updates the monthly mortgage payment calculation for borrowers with student loan debt who apply for FHA-insured mortgages. This update will provide greater access to mortgage credit for homebuyers with student loan debt.

The announcement enhances FHA’s ability to serve one of its core demographics—first-time homebuyers. Over 80 percent of FHA-insured mortgages are for first-time homebuyers on average each year. Of those buyers, the FHA estimates that more than 45 percent also have student loan debt.

If you are a prospective homebuyer with student loan debt and would like to learn more about the changes to the FHA loan program, read the official Press Release.

If you’re ready to begin the search for your home, contact us today! We’ll get you in touch with our Mortgage Team and discuss the options available to you.

You worked hard for your degree, now let us work for you to make homeownership a reality. Let’s get you home, today!


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15

Roughly 20 percent of older Americans fall prey to financial exploitation losing on average $120,000, or $3 billion every year, according to a study from the AARP Public Policy Institute.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day logo

Be on the Lookout for Elder Financial Abuse Scams

The unfortunate reality is that older adults are attractive targets for financial exploitation because they possess more wealth than other potential victims.

With World Elder Abuse Awareness Day marked this year on June 15, it is a good time to provide seniors and their family members with tips to guard against financial exploitation.

At GRB we take a proactive approach to detecting and preventing financial fraud against older customers through routine employee training and the use of technology to spot red flags and report suspicious activity to authorities.

We encourage everyone to remain vigilant regarding common schemes and scams, like those below.

Medicare/Health Insurance Scams

It is difficult to imagine someone preying on those in need of medical assistance, but Medicare fraud is quite common. Criminals posing as Medicare or medical supply reps may try to steal a victim’s identity or offer bogus services to bill Medicare.

Another COVID-19 related scam centers around a FEMA program to assist with funeral expenses. While this is a legitimate program, and you can reach out to FEMA to apply for these benefits, citizens should be mindful that:

  • FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance.
  • The government won’t ask you to pay anything to get this benefit.

Never share personal or financial information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue.

Zoom Phishing Emails and Internet Fraud

At the onset of the pandemic con artists registered thousands of fake Zoom-related internet domains to send phony emails, texts or social media messages. These bogus links led consumers to inadvertently download malware (malicious software) that exposed their personal information.

Internet scammers often send fake text messages alleging trouble with an internet account, credit card, bank account or shopping order. Many even contain realistic looking logos to lure you into clicking on a link and divulging personal information.

To limit your exposure, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails or texts. If you suspect a problem with an account, contact the bank or service provider directly.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams

Seniors schooled in etiquette may frown upon “hanging up the phone” or simply saying “no” to unsolicited calls. But those good manners can leave the door open to criminals. Three notable examples include:

  1. The pigeon drop. Con artists pretend to share found money in exchange for a “good faith” payment drawn from the contacted person’s bank account.
  2. The fake accident ploy. Con artists create a false story that a loved one is injured and needs money for medical expenses. Don’t trust these callers, verify information with family members directly.
  3. Charity scams. Con artists solicit funds on behalf of a charity they are not affiliated with or that is not legit. Remember, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. If you want to give go directly to the source.

Scams are always changing. The Federal Trade Commission has a “scam alert” page with up-to-date scam information at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

And as trusted stewards of our customer’s financial data, feel free to reach out to GRB. We train our employees on fraud prevention techniques and can help you spot potential scams. If you suspect financial fraud, we can help you take appropriate measures to protect your account.


GRB President and CEO Phil Pecora Selected as Financial Leader 2021

We are proud to announce that the Rochester Business Journal and the Rochester Chapter of Financial Executives International have selected GRB President and CEO Phil Pecora as a Financial Leader 2021. Pecora was recognized in the category of Commercial Banker.

Financial Leaders 2021 recognizes financial professionals who have made outstanding contributions to their organizations and to the Greater Rochester community during the past year. Nominees were judged based on their professional accomplishment within their category and on their civic commitment to the Rochester community.

We can’t think of anyone more deserving of this recognition and are proud to celebrate Phil Pecora and his commitment and endless effort to support the Rochester community. Congratulations!


GRB Named to “Best Companies” List for Eighth Year

GRB is pleased to announce it has once again been named to the “Best Companies to Work for in New York” state awards. This is the eighth year that GRB has made the list. The awards are decided based in large part on responses from employee surveys and is sponsored by the New York State Society for Human Resource Management (NYS-SHRM).

For more information about the award, visit the Best Companies website.

Best Companies to Work for in New York logo 2021

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) Provides Possibilities for Homeowners

A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is one of the lowest-cost sources of funding available to homeowners. Unlike a loan, which provides a lump sum of funds and a fixed interest rate, a home equity line of credit is a revolving credit line. It allows the borrower to take out money against the credit line up to a preset limit, make payments, and then take money out again as needed. The rate is variable.

With interest rates among the lowest in recent history, securing a HELOC may be a good way for homeowners to reach any number of personal or financial goals. Homeowners regularly use a HELOC to:

  • Make home improvements
  • Pay tuition
  • Consolidate debt
  • Set aside emergency cash
  • Start a business
  • Take a vacation

Beginning spring 2021, GRB is offering a HELOC special with a low introductory rate and flexible terms.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a home equity line of credit is a good borrowing option for you: think about how you will use the money, what might happen to interest rates, your long-term financial plans, and your tolerance for risk with the HELOC’s fluctuating rates.

Contact a GRB Personal Banker to discuss your goals and how a HELOC may be part of the solution.


GRB Recognized as Best-performing Community Bank in 2020 by S&P

S&P Global Market Intelligence report ranks GRB no. 23 nationwide for banks with up to $3 billion is assets

GRB is proud to be recognized by S&P Global Market Intelligence as one of the “Best-performing Community Banks for 2020” for banks up to $3 billion in assets. Ranked at no. 23, GRB is the only New York state community bank on the nationwide list.

No. 23 ranking graphic

To determine the ranking, S&P calculated scores for more than 4,000 financial institutions on six weighted metrics: pre-tax return on tangible common equity, efficiency ratio, net interest margin, operating revenue growth, leverage ratio and nonperforming assets and loans 90 days past due as a percentage of total assets, and the net of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. GRB performed well in all categories, delivering an efficiency ratio of 46.03%, keeping non-performing assets to 0.30% as a percent of total assets, and delivering a return on tangible common equity of 25.83%.

Meeting 2020’s challenges

“In a year filled with so much uncertainty, we are proud that GRB was able to maintain its stability, make significant gains in efficiency, and serve the local community as one of the region’s leading SBA PPP loan providers,” said GRB President and CEO Philip L. Pecora. “Our previous years’ investments in technology and ability to develop a committed, high-performing workforce allowed us to respond quickly to the PPP program and simultaneously move forward with other lending activities, deposit growth, and support a record-breaking year for our residential mortgage team.”

“Despite going through a challenging year filled with economic uncertainty, we have seen community banks and credit unions play a significant role in their regional markets, providing support and essential services needed in their local communities. I’m thrilled to see these community banks and credit unions thrive in a challenging time and proud to recognize these top performing local financial institutions in our annual rankings,” said Jimmy Pittenger, Senior Director of Financial Institutions at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Relationships made the difference

Pecora points out that it was the bank’s strong relationships with its customers that provided the foundation for fully leveraging its technology infrastructure and shifting to a remote work environment for more than 70% of the bank’s employees.

“We take pride in being the kind of banking partner that knows its customers intimately and proactively works with them to face challenges and take advantage of new opportunities,” said Pecora. “In an environment like 2020, those relationships were critical. Even though things were changing for us and for our customers on a daily basis, they knew we were focused on doing the right thing for them, for our employees and for this community.”

Focusing on recovery

In addition to processing PPP loans for 575 small businesses, 2020 also brought GRB a number of other achievements: earning Emerald Award status from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and being the top SBA lender in the Rochester region, being named to the “Rochester Chamber Top 100” list of fastest-growing privately owned companies, and being recognized as one of the “Best Companies to Work for in New York” by the Society for Human Resource Management. The bank was also a leading purchase mortgage bank lender in the region and was recently named a top residential mortgage refinance provider by Expertise.com.

“We were well-positioned in 2020 to fulfill the rapidly changing needs of our customers and still provide opportunities for our employees and shareholders,” said Pecora. “We know that strength will be needed in 2021 as we continue to support the recovery efforts of the small businesses and community members in the Rochester region.” 

Read the full S&P report


Expertise.com Names GRB Top Rochester Refinance Mortgage Provider

Genesee Regional Bank is pleased to announce it has been recognized by professional services review website Expertise.com as one of the Top Refinance Mortgage companies in Rochester, NY.

Expertise.com scored GRB on more than 25 variables across five categories including availability, qualifications, reputation, experience, and professionalism.

Expertise.com finds and reviews the top service professionals in over 200 industries across the U.S. Each month, the company researches more than 60,000 businesses to help customers find the best-qualified professional for their needs. Categories available for analysis include legal, business, personal, and home services.

Mortgage Refinance Companies near me

Contact our Mortgage team for a home loan or refinance.


First-time Homebuyer Mortgage Program Offers Up To $10,000 in Grants

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. The Homebuyer Dream ProgramTM provides grants of up to $10,000 towards the purchase of a home in New York.  This is a program that is only available to banks, mortgage brokers are not able to access grant funds for this program.

The FHLBNY is also returning to the allotment program this year, providing lenders with a set amount of funding and helping avoid the “first come, first served” difficulties many buyers experienced in 2020.

The program officially kicks off on May 3.

Homebuyer Dream Program* (HDP) eligibility requirements

  • Must be first-time homebuyers (have not owned a home individually or with a spouse in the last three years)
  • Reside and purchase a home in New York
  • Have a household income at or below 80% of area median income (i.e., in Monroe and Onondaga county, 1 or 2 person households, up to $68,080. 3-person households up to $78,292)
  • 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

  • Up to $9,500 in grant funding is available to be applied to down payment and closing costs
  • Up to $500 in grant funding is available to offset the cost of the homeownership course

Find out if you qualify

For more information, contact our mortgage professionals.

Please note, the information in this post refers to the 2021 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.