Opting in for Overdraft Protection

Banks and Credit Unions have been providing Overdraft Protection programs for many years but 10 years ago all debit card and ATM transactions that created an overdraft had to have consumer consent before the financial institution could pay the debit and charge a fee.

Prior to 2010, paper checks were nearly 50% of all debit transactions a bank would process and today less than 8% of all debits are paper. Consumers paying with a debit card or electronic transaction is a common practice and we are nearing the situation many predicted 30 years ago of a paperless society for banking transactions.

If consumers want to take home their prescriptions or groceries when paying with a debit card when there are insufficient funds in their account, a bank or credit union cannot automatically authorize the transaction. Beginning on July 1, 2010 a financial institution had to obtain opt-in for these transactions pursuant to Regulation E.

A financial institution can obtain opt-in via their website, in person, by mail, or over the phone. It is not required that a financial institution obtain a signature on the prescribed Federal Reserve’s A-9 form, nor do the forms have to be kept for any period of time. If a consumer opts-in, a confirmation of the opt-in must be sent to the consumer.

Opting-in is a great service for those customers who want flexibility in managing their account. Others may not see any benefit to opting-in. But it gives consumers complete choice on how they want their account handled when it comes to paying for things they need when they are short on funds.

The Importance of Moving away from Spreadsheets for Vendor Management

Over the past several years, regulators have targeted vendor management as one of their top regulatory concerns. With growing dependence on third parties for services,  the need for effective vendor management programs has increased. While regulatory framework for vendor management has been in place for years, the detailed expectations and efficiency have been missing. Most organizations have adopted a vendor management process using spreadsheets – which lacks consistency, efficiency, clarity, effectiveness and oversight.

A software solution will help you move beyond spreadsheets and onto a centralized system that will streamline your process and clarify the procedure for everyone involved. Having an automated system will help you manage your vendors more efficiently. Examiners are looking for programs that have automated contract management and due diligence alerts when documents are nearing expirations and also comprehensive assessments, such as risk and controls assessments. An automated system will manage these processes more effectively and efficiently by creating a consistent workflow that a spreadsheet can’t produce. Additionally, a software solution is a more effective way to manage your vendors because it will reduce likeliness of user errors that spreadsheets can cause by keying mistakes or employees not using the correct spreadsheet because there could be multiple copies that are being saved.

With increasing regulations and demands concerning governance and compliance, companies can no longer risk using spreadsheets to manage third-party vendor polices and procedures. By using a centralized vendor management software system, organizations can simplify and standardize their process, effectively managing vendor risk and relationships, and ultimately saving time and money throughout the entire company.

Focus on Reg E Opt-in Now More Important Than Ever

It has never been more important to ensure that your financial institution has adequate coverage in regards to account holder Reg E opt-in. Reg E opt-in allows you to authorize ATM withdrawals and everyday debit card purchases, which may overdraw an account holder’s checking account, as long as they have provided their consent for you to do so.

Data recently released by a 2019 Federal Reserve Payments study shows that only 9% of all transactions in 2018 were from checks paid and 16% were via ACH. An overwhelming 42% of transactions were made via debit card. This decline in traditional transaction types, in favor of a debit card, means that it is extremely important to focus on the proper opt-in approach.

According to Part 205 of Electronic Fund Transfers (Regulation E), the financial institution must give “Reasonable opportunity to provide affirmative consent.”

A financial institution provides a consumer with a reasonable opportunity to provide affirmative consent when, among other things, it provides reasonable methods by which the consumer may affirmatively consent. A financial institution provides such reasonable methods, if—

  1. By mail. The institution provides a form for the consumer to fill out and mail to affirmatively consent to the service.
  2. By telephone. The institution provides a readily-available telephone line that consumers may call to provide affirmative consent.
  3. By electronic means. The institution provides an electronic means for the consumer to affirmatively consent. For example, the institution could provide a form that can be accessed and processed at its Web site, where the consumer may click on a checkbox to provide consent and confirm that choice by clicking on a button that affirms the consumer’s consent.
  4. In-person. The institution provides a form for the consumer to complete and present at a branch or office to affirmatively consent to the service.

By arming your team with the most effective procedures, you can be certain to achieve optimum opt-in for your organization. Strunk has a proven track record of achieving maximum results with financial institutions across the country. We help to more effectively reach your goals, all while remaining in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

 

Does Your Overdraft Payment Program Have Exclusion Creep?

For the past 27 years Strunk has been the leading provider of formal overdraft payment programs to financial institutions across the country. Many of these programs were put in place in the early to mid 2000’s, well before Regulation E changed the overdraft landscape in 2010.

Some financial institutions have let their programs die and others have put them on the back shelf as fee income derived from the service has gone down. Others continue to wonder what they can do to revitalize their 10-20 year old program.

So, what has happened? In virtually all financial institutions, the number of consumers participating in the formal overdraft program has dropped significantly. For one reason or another, the account holder has been taken out of the formal overdraft payment program. Strunk calls this “Exclusion Creep”. Virtually all of our 1,800 clients had 90%+ participation when the program was implemented but many institutions have 65-75% of their accounts in the program today.

Managing this is paramount to providing a good service to all of your customers and to maximizing fee income. Take a look at your consumer checking accounts and see if they have an overdraft limit assigned to the account. If not, re-qualify them and put them back in the program. Consumers want the service and managing the overdraft program like a line of business benefits everyone.

Does your financial institution have Exclusion Creep?

Audits and Exams and ODP, Oh My!

An audit or exam is approaching? Use ODP Manager to help you gather the requested documentation!

Do you need to supply samples of each letter sent using ODP Manager? In Collection Letters and Custom Letters, you can generate a sample PDF of each active letter template.

For the specified review period, do you need to identify accounts with overdraft limits added or removed? Reg E opt ins or opt outs? Letters generated?  In Events, you can search for all events that occur during a specified timeframe. Use filters to narrow your results to a specific event or letter.  Not only can you identify the appropriate accounts, but you can also export the list.

Do you need a convenient summary of all the account’s information contained within ODP Manager? In Account Inquiry, export the Account Profile as a PDF – it’s a convenient way to compile the information for account officers, auditors, or examiners. It includes an overdraft summary, comments, reminders, repayment plans, and an event history. Also, the Events tab allows you to review all the account’s events and regenerate PDFs of any letters mailed to the customer.

For any Overdraft Privilege Program review, ODP Manager makes compiling the requested information easier.

 

Managing Fee Waivers and Refunds

As the end of the year approaches, we have seen more and more clients loose potential additional fee income by waiving or refunding customer OD/NSF fees.  This is often lost income potential that is unknown to the institution. Generally most systems are set up to charge fees after the pay/return decisions have been made, so if the fees are waived the income never shows up on the general ledger as either income or the subsequent reversal of income.  Besides the reduction of fee income, waiving or refunding OD/NSF fees can also be a compliance issue.  Regulators have become increasingly sensitive to which accounts are not being held accountable for the fees that their activity dictates should be charged. For instance, if a high net worth individual is not charged overdraft (or other) fees that other accounts are routinely charged, this may be viewed as disparate treatment with all the ramifications that allegations of that nature involve.

The best solution to help alleviate both of these issues is to charge the fee “the night before”, or when the overdraft transactions are presented rather than waiting until the resolution of all items to post the fee. This helps accomplish the reduction in fee income simply because it requires more than a “click” to waive a fee, but rather a refund would need to be run for the reversal of the fee. This also allows for easier tracking of what is being given back to your account holders. With the gross fees as well as the individual refunds posting to the general ledger you can see at any given time how much the institution is giving away in fee income. From a compliance standpoint the institution is charging everyone on an equal basis – if an item overdraws the account then the account is charged – but the officer still has the discretion to refund the fee after the fact. This method is much more trackable and provides much more accountability for fee refunds.

Many of our clients cannot tell how much income they are giving back to customers each month. Part of the issue is addressed above regarding how to account for your fees and the associated waives, but the other issue is simply employees refunding fees back to customers when they ask for it, or sometimes even without them asking for it. In addition, very few institutions take the time to build reports, examine those reports, and hold their employees accountable on a consistent basis.

To assist in managing fee refunds, Strunk recommends that you implement the use of a “Refund Request Form” for employees to provide customers when they request a refund. This accomplishes multiple things. First, it allows the employee to avoid the face-to-face confrontation and having to make a snap decision. Second, it puts the emphasis for refunds back on the customer to show why it should be granted. This does not mean that we will no longer grant refunds, but we would like the customer to have to provide a valid reason why the institution should consider granting the request.

Checking Accounts that Create Value

Free and all-you-can-eat used to be the two most powerful marketing terms in the world. Have a free picnic in the park and people from all areas of town will show up. For years financial institutions only offered free checking accounts. In fact many institutions continue offering a no frills, no fee account that people still like.

But many consumers are willing to pay a small fee for their checking account IF they receive services that have a perceived value that exceeds the monthly fee. Independent studies show that over 70% of consumers want Identity Theft Protection with credit monitoring on their account. They also want credit score reporting and certainly everyone wants/needs cell phone protection for a broken or stolen phone.

Value Checking is a unique concept that provides services that consumers want and need and they are willing to pay for them. Large institutions charge $6-$12 per month for a checking account and some will let you reduce the fee by accepting e-statements, doing a certain number of debit card transactions, or directly depositing your payroll into your checking account. Other banks and credit unions pay interest on the checking account for doing these same things.

Strategy:

1) Offer a no frills, no fee checking account for those consumers who only want a bare minimum account.

2) Add benefits to all of your other accounts and charge a small monthly fee that is less than the value of the services.

This strategy is currently working at over 700 financial institutions on nearly 10,000,000 checking accounts. Customer loyalty and fee income will go up at the same time. Contact Strunk today to learn more!

How Can ODP Manager Help You Successfully Manage Your Overdraft Privilege Program?

Overdraft Privilege can be the largest producer of fee income for your financial institution. Think of all the features within ODP Manager as pieces of a puzzle that must all be present in order for you to manage your program successfully!

Did you know that there is a Library in ODP Manager that will provide you recommended, compliant letters and policies? By using Strunk’s templates and generating letters as due in ODP Manager, you are facilitating your program compliance. You also have access to links to all applicable laws an regulations for quick reference.

ODP Manager can also help you more effectively manage your Fresh Start Loan program. Generate collection letters that advise your account holders about the option of a Fresh Start Loan. Create the Fresh Start Loan Agreement using the account data already in ODP Manager. Track repayment plans and use payment reminders to monitor when payments should be received all within the application.

Make sure you routinely monitor the management reports in ODP Manager that summarize your Overdraft Privilege program performance. Use the Summary Report to monitor trends in your NSF and OD Fees and Refunds.

The Account Inquiry section of the software allows filtering, sorting, and exporting of your account details. It also includes standard groups that help you identify accounts to review. Use the Call List group to contact your overdrawn accounts prior to their next collection letter.

Let ODP Manager help you get the most benefit from your Overdraft Privilege program!

Doing Risk Assessments Doesn’t Have to be Daunting

Community banks across the county struggle with the risk assessment process and generally they come in the form of Excel Spreadsheets or Word documents. Each functional area of the bank does their regulatory required risk assessment in silo’s and periodically the bank’s board reviews and approves the assessment.

Regulatory scrutiny of BSA/AML, ACH, Fair Lending, Loan Concentrations, Cybersecurity, Information Technology and other areas of the bank have caused financial institutions to spend more time and money focusing on the risks the bank faces. Some banks have declared their compliance officer the chief risk officer as a way to show the regulators that they are on top of enterprise risk management.

Outsourcing some of these functions to vendors is an expensive way to manage the risk assessment process and certainly unnecessary. Strunk’s GRC (Governance, Risk Management and Compliance) solution makes the risk assessment process easy to do and it consolidates all areas of risk the bank faces into one report.

Bank examiners often tell the community bank that they are coming out for the annual exam six weeks to two months prior to actually showing up. Generally, they ask the bank to send an extensive amount of information prior to coming onsite. This gives the regulator time to form their opinion on what risks the bank faces before arriving at the bank.

Strunk’s solution lets the bank tell their story rather than have the regulator tell the bank’s story to them. Comprehensive risk assessments are made easy with Strunk’s GRC and Vendor Management solution.

Technology Service Provider Contracts

Understanding the increase dependence that financial institutions have on technology service providers, bank regulators have increased their efforts to require banks to appropriately handle third-party risk management.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has identified gaps noted by some examiners regarding several technology service provider contracts that were inadequate under existing guidance.  These contracts were missing or inadequately addressed key terms, such as:

  • Requiring the service provider to maintain a business continuity plan,
  • Lack standards for data recovery along with appropriate remedies when a recovery standard is missed.
  • Defining key terms in the contracts relevant to business continuity and/or incident response. Contracts lacking these provisions violate the Interagency Guidelines Establishing Information Security Standards, promulgated under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Vendors that provide technology related services can create special risks to depository institutions that need to be properly addressed in their service contracts.  The FDIC indicated that it plans to hold the board and senior management of financial institutions accountable for controlling those risks in accordance with the requirements of the law and its existing regulatory guidance.

Financial Institutions should be willing to hold their service providers accountable and negotiate an appropriate contract.  All financial institutions should have provisions that they review for all of their contracts with a robust vendor management program, this will help uncover any weakness in business continuity and data recovery early in the process.

 

An independent certified public accountant has examined Strunk’s operations and found them to be in compliance with the AICPA’s Trust Service Principles. It was determined that Strunk meets the Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy criteria for SOC 2 established by the AICPA.