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.


June is National Homeownership Month

National Homeownership Week was established in 1995 and expanded to National Homeownership Month in 2002. The month-long celebration reinforces the belief that owning a home is a critical step towards achieving the American dream. The history of homeownership assistance in the U.S. involves access to financing and incentives. This assistance helps make the purchase of a home possible for a wider range of buyers. Since the 1800s, key government initiatives for housing support include:

  • Establishing the U.S. banking system with the 1860s National Bank Acts, making home mortgages available for the first time.
  • Creating the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in 1933, the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, and the Federal National Mortgage Association (now known as Fannie Mae) in 1938 to stabilize the housing market during the Depression. In its 87 years, the FHA has helped more than 44 million citizens to become homeowners.
  • Creating the G.I. Bill of 1944, providing for subsidized mortgages for the veterans of World War II.
  • Passing the Fair Housing Act of 1968, banning discrimination in housing based on religion, race, gender, and national origin.

Homeownership by the Numbers

While we have come a long way, opportunity remains to expand the ability to build wealth through homeownership.

  • 30% – Nearly 1/3 of American households devote more than 30 percent of their income to housing costs.
  • 50% – Eleven million renters spend more than half their household budget on a place to call home. 
  • 2 Million – Two million seniors spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent during their “golden years.”
  • 37 – For every 100 extremely low-income household, there are just 37 affordable rental units available. 

New Housing is Expensive

The rising price of new housing developments is one part of the problem. In 2017, Fannie Mae estimated the average cost of building a one to three story apartment to be $192 per square foot. This represents a 30% increase from 2013.

  • This often translates into rents between $1,500 and $2,000 a month. 
  • Families need to earn $60k – $80k per year to afford that, which is beyond the reach of low-to-moderate income consumers. 

Why the Squeeze?

  • Experts, like the Federal Reserve, say this housing shortage is due in part to zoning and land use regulations that limit available space for development.
  • As a result, fewer multi-family and low-income housing units are built.

Banks Are Making a Difference

Banks understand that affordable housing requires more than making a loan. It takes flexible capital and cooperative relationships with consumer groups, nonprofits, and government agencies to foster community development.  To help meet these housing needs, banks work with:

  • Nonprofits and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to provide products with flexible underwriting standards and technical assistance.
  • State Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) to secure low interest rates, low down payment mortgages and closing cost assistance for low-and moderate-income buyers.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to participate in their Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program and Home Investment Partnership program (HOME).
  • Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks to access funding for well-priced single family and multi-family loans and to participate in the Affordable Housing Program (AHP) and the Community Investment Program (CIP)

Get Started with GRB

GRB provides government-backed loans (USDA, VA and FHA) to provide low down payment lending options. GRB is also an active participant in the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Homebuyer Dream Program (HDP). HDP provides down payment assistance and counseling services for low- to moderate-income homebuyers. Collaboration between banks and housing-focuses agencies helps those in need find a place to call home in a challenging market.

If you’re considering a home purchase, contact GRB’s Mortgage Team to get started. As a community bank, GRB focuses on the growth of this region. Through our wide range of home lending options, GRB commits to supporting homebuyers during National Homeownership Month – and every day!


GRB Recognized as ICBA “Top-performing Community Bank” for 2021

We are proud to announce that GRB has been recognized by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) as one of the “top-performing community banks of 2021” in the most recent edition of “Independent Banker” magazine. Ranked at no. 21 in the $300 million to $1 billion asset category, GRB is the only Western New York bank on the nationwide list.

ICBA’s calculations aim to recognize community banks that are consistent high performers. Using FDIC data, ICBA looks at pre-tax return-on-assets (ROA) figures from the past three years. Only four community banks in New York were part of this year’s ICBA list of 75.

In an interview conducted by Independent Banker magazine, GRB President and CEO Philip Pecora attributed GRB’s success to helping small businesses through its Small Business Administration (SBA) lending activities, exponential growth in the bank’s mortgage business, and significant investments in technology.

“We focused on technology to handle the transaction side of our business, to make the back end seamless. That allows us to focus on the personal side of the business,” said Pecora. “What differentiates us is the personal relationships, but the technology is a must-have.”

Being recognized for our profitability is certainly a significant achievement. But it would not have happened if not for the extraordinary efforts of the entire GRB employee team through some very challenging times. Our ability to move forward and still focus on our sales and service goals was critical for the bank and for its customers.

The complete list of ICBA’s “top-performing community banks” in Independent Banker magazine is available online at https://independentbanker.org/2022/05/the-top-performing-community-banks-of-2021.


Honoring SBA District and New York State “Business Person of the Year”

New York State “Business Person of the Year” Steven Olschewski of The Clubhouse Fun Centers.

During National Small Business Week, we are thrilled to extend our sincere congratulations to Steven Olschewski, owner of Clubhouse Fun Centers in Greece and Henrietta. Mr. Olschewski was named U.S. Small Business Administration district and New York State “Business Person of the Year” during this year’s celebration of National Small Business Week. This is the first time in 25 years the SBA award has been received by a Rochester, N.Y. business.

County Executive Adam Bello, Congressman Joe Morelle, and Victoria Reynolds, SBA Deputy District Director, presented the award to Mr. Olschewski and his wife, Marsina. The award recognizes Mr. Olschewski’s perseverance during the pandemic and the subsequent recovery of his family fun center business. After purchasing the Greece location in 2018 with an SBA loan from GRB, Mr. Olschewski ended 2021 with both locations having their best year yet. Mr. Olschewski was nominated for the award by Lydia Birr, Sr. Economic Development Specialist with the Monroe County Economic Development Office.

“Small business owners like Steven are tough as nails. Their drive, determination and ability to take calculated risks while also tapping into a pool of resources available for help, build a better economy in Western New York and we salute them during National Small Business Week,” said SBA Buffalo District Director Franklin J. Sciortino. Congratulations, Steven and Marsina!


Happy National Small Business Week

National Small Business Week social media illustration featuring the SBA logo and theme "Building a Better America through Entrepreneurship."

At GRB, we celebrate small business every day.  We’re a small business and we are deeply engaged with the small business community here in the Greater Rochester region.

We know this community and understand its unique needs and opportunities. GRB has been the top U.S. Small Business Administration lender in Greater Rochester the last two years. We are proud of the hundreds of commercial clients whose innovative ideas and hard work fuel our local economy. We are grateful for their role in providing quality jobs and supporting charitable needs.

Entrepreneurship is the foundation of this community. We are proud to share the stories of some of our small business customers on our Customer Stories page.

Congratulations to our business owner clients and to all those who have had made the bold move to turn their vision into reality.  To celebrate, we are offering a number of activities this week:

  • Register for the SBA and SCORE National Small Business Week Virtual Summit to meet other business owners and get expert advice at this free event.
  • Check out our social media channels for small business facts. Please, feel free to share! #NSBW
  • Talk to your relationship manager about the latest GRB tools, products and services. We are happy to help you reduce costs, guard against fraud, and enhance your operations.

Happy National Small Business Week!


GRB Ranks No. 5 on 2022 “Best Companies” List

We are pleased to announce GRB has ranked no. 5 in the the medium employer (100-250) category for “Best Companies to Work For New York.” This is a significant achievement and we are incredibly proud of our employees for making GRB a great place to work and a great place to bank.

Awards for the “Best Companies” are based on feedback provided through employee surveys, which focus on:

  • Leadership & Planning
  • Corporate Culture & Communications
  • Role Satisfaction
  • Work Environment
  • Relationship with Supervisor
  • Training, Development & Resources
  • Pay & Benefits

The survey process is managed by Best Companies Group (BCG) and winners are published by New York State SHRM (NYS-SHRM).

This year marks the ninth time GRB has secured a spot on the Best Companies list.


April is Community Banking Month

The idea of “sustainability” is linked to a lot of local activities these days. We reuse and recycle products, make purchases at a local bakery, and choose to buy American-made products. We know this supports our national economy. In turn, there are plenty of reasons why eating, dining, and banking locally makes good economic sense. Community Banking Month is the perfect time to reflect on banking locally.

If you’ve ever wondered if it matters where you deposit your hard-earned money, let me assure you it does. Banking locally certainly supports small businesses. But that’s not its only contribution. As a locally owned and operated business, community banks are part of the economic engine that creates 62 percent of new jobs annually.

Community banks put people first

Community banks like GRB take in deposits and distribute loans that feed into a self-sustaining micro-economy. Our deposits and loans keep funds right here in Upstate New York. And the proceeds from those businesses employ residents, fund municipalities, and continue the cycle of locally based economic growth.

And if you need more proof, just consider the community bank response to the coronavirus pandemic. Community banks were the economic first responders. They made 60 percent of total Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses. During Community Banking Month, it’s important to note that as a group, community banks are:

  • The preferred small business lenders. Community banks maintain an 81 percent net satisfaction score. This compares to 68 percent for large banks and just 43 percent for online lenders.
  • Responsible for funding more than 60% of small business loans and more than 80% of agriculture loans.
  • Consistently demonstrating their safety and soundness with higher capital ratios and better loan quality than the largest institutions.
  • Often operating in areas abandoned by others—serving as the only physical banking presence in nearly one in three U.S. counties.

Local benefits every day

But it is not just about stats. At GRB, our employees are empowered to find solutions to meet our customers’ goals. And when our employees log volunteer hours or when GRB contributes to local charitable organizations, we help ensure economic prosperity and quality of life.

April is Community Banking Month, and we thank our customers for putting their trust in us for their banking needs. For our neighbors who may be considering a switch, take a closer look at GRB. We pledge to never lose sight of the all-important “relationship” and the personalized service our customers expect. For more information, visit our Business Banking, Personal Banking and Home Mortgage pages.

Remember, we are all in this together. Community banks are only successful if our customers and communities are, too. We know what it takes to create successful local economies. Join us in helping to build a more sustainable, vibrant economy here at home! Bank local with GRB and celebrate Community Banking Month!

Follow our social channels for special Community Banking Month features throughout the month of April.


Financial Fact or Fool? An April Fool’s Day Financial Check Up

Financial advice is everywhere, but much of it falls into the realm of rumor, half-truth and speculation.

When talking about your finances, it helps to identify your goals and establish a plan that brings those goals closer to fruition. If you need help, look for qualified individuals (accountants, legal counsel, financial planners, etc.) to provide guidance. But in the end, the money is yours and you need to be comfortable with your plan.

Although financial decisions are not one-size-fits-all, there are some best practices. In honor of April Fool’s Day – and the beginning of U.S. National Financial Literacy Month – see if you can tell which of these statements are financial fact or a financial fool’s errand.

Fool. Saving is definitely a situation where every little bit counts. Saving just 15% of pretax income (including your employer’s contribution) can go a long way towards maintaining your lifestyle in retirement. Use the GRBbank Online Banking My Budget feature to track your monthly expenses and set savings goals.

Fact. A budget is the first step to financial success. Without a budget, spending can easily begin to outpace earning and leave the user in debt. A budget provides a benchmark that can be used for ongoing planning and to help meet financial goals. Check out the My Budget tool on GRBbank Online Banking.Add Accordion Item

Fool. While a good credit score does provide potential borrowers with more options, there are programs for credit-challenged individuals. Many lenders, like GRB, also provide credit repair services to help borrowers take the right actions to raise their credit score. While it still may require some time and patience, home ownership can still become a reality.

Fool. While easy and convenient, person-to-person payment apps have a couple of shortcomings. First, they are not insured. Financial institutions insure accountholders for up to $250,000. If the app goes down and your money disappears, there is no recourse. Apps also do not offer interest on the money left in user accounts. Look for high-yield accounts, like GRB’s Reward Checking account, and make your money really work for you.

Fool. Having a credit card and making timely payments can help build a favorable credit history. But carrying a balance is not part of that equation. A balance is considered revolving debt and factors in to your credit utilization, which can actually hurt your score., and make that interest work for you.

Fact. Why? Keeping a zero balance on a card improves your credit utilization ratio (revolving credit used divided by revolving credit available). As long as you aren’t being charged significant fees for the card, it may be more beneficial to keep it active.

Fool. Traditionally, home mortgages and student loans have the lowest interest rates and may even be tax deductible. Paying off higher-interest debt or even using that extra money to save for retirement is often more financially sound. Not sure? Talk to a financial planner or accountant.

How did you do? If you need some additional information, go to our Financial Wellness page for resources and tips for saving, credit repair, home buying, and more.


What Can You Do with a Home Equity Line of Credit?

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.

Despite some rumblings about increases, interest rates remain low. So securing a HELOC may be a good way for homeowners to reach other personal or financial goals. Homeowners regularly use them to:

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

GRB is offering a HELOC special with a low introductory rate and flexible terms.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether a HELOC is a good borrowing option. 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 a HELOC’s adjustable rates.

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


First-time Homebuyer Mortgage Program Launches for 2022 – 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 uses an allotment program, providing lenders with a set amount of funding.

The program begins accepting applications for funds on March 21, 2022. The program ends on Nov. 30, 2022.

Homebuyer Dream Program* (HDP) eligibility requirements

  • Must be first-time homebuyers**
  • 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 $69,680. In households of more than 3 people, the maximum income level is now $80,132)
  • 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 2022 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.


Improve Your Cyber Readiness

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has included cyber-attacks. In the wake of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and our allies throughout the world, every individual and organization should take additional steps to improve their cyber readiness and help mitigate the risk of a cybersecurity threat.

GRB’s Regulatory Compliance and Cyber Readiness

Hacker conducting cyber-attacks on organizations around the world

Protecting your information and accounts is a top priority at Genesee Regional Bank (GRB). The bank has 24/7/365 automated monitoring platforms to detect cyber threats. Our operations, risk management, and IT teams are all engaged in additional awareness and prevention activities. Management receives briefings regularly.

As a financial institution, GRB is regulated by both the New York State Department of Financial Services and The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). As such, both organizations require GRB to have policies and programs in place to mitigate risk as much as possible. GRB also complies with New York State’s Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, one of the most comprehensive cybersecurity regulations in the country. 

Additionally, we conduct external and internal penetration and social engineering tests and provide ongoing training to employees. We also consistently monitor communications and recommendations from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and take action as needed. 

Consumer Cybersecurity Tips

In addition, we are asking all of our customers to be more aware of their cyber surroundings and take extra steps to protect their personal financial information.

  1. Beware of phishing attacks from fraudulent not-for-profit organizations. Always make donations through established and reputable organizations.
  2. Change and create more complex passwords for critical apps and systems.
  3. Ensure your personal anti-virus and anti-malware programs are current.
  4. If you haven’t set up automated notifications and alerts on your bank account(s), it would be a good time to enact those additional protections.
  5. Avoid conducting banking and financial transactions on public WiFi.
  6. Report any suspected fraudulent activities on your accounts immediately. If you believe you may have been the victim of fraud on your GRB account, you can call us or submit a report 24/7/365 to the Fraud Reporting page on our website.
  7. Additional free cybersecurity resources are available from the Federal Trade Commission and Ready.gov.

If you have questions, please contact us at one of our branch locations.