Five Key Takeaways from the MEF Banking App Study

By Matt Kelly

There are more smartphones in circulation today than ever before, so it should come as no surprise that mobile banking app usage is on the rise again too. In fact, 61 percent of people use their bank’s app on a daily basis, according to a Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s “Mobile Money Report”, released earlier this year.

The report, a consumer study spanning 6,000 individuals in nine countries, highlights the continued emergence of banking apps as a critical touch point between financial institutions and their customers.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the significant details of the report below:

Consumers place trust in their devices. In the MEF report, consumers were asked which processing method they trusted most when using a credit card. A quarter of respondents preferred mobile-optimized websites or simply storing credit card data within a mobile app. Only 17 percent felt better handing a card to a store’s employee, while only 6 percent felt safe reading details over the phone.

Mobile experience is as vital as branch experience. 28 percent of respondents to the MEF study said they preferred to do their banking at branches. However, app users are quickly gaining ground, with 26 percent preferring that option. Financial institutions must recognize the value of mobile experience, and those that create a seamless experience between apps and branches will likely gain a competitive foothold in the years to come.

Engagement is up, but visibility is down. With the introduction of mobile banking solutions, financial institutions are seeing more engagement with customers on a daily basis. 78 percent have made a mobile purchase over a six month time frame. 44 percent check their balances, while 29 percent pay bills with their smartphone. So while banks may not necessarily be seeing their customers every day, our devices are enabling us to make banking a more significant part of our day-to-day lives.

Privacy remains a top priority. 31 percent of MEF survey respondents claimed that they had abandoned purchases in the past because they were asked for too much personal information. With customer privacy a critical factor in cybersecurity conversations taking place within the financial industry, banks must work together with the retail industry to find ways to streamline purchasing processes while simultaneously shoring up consumer concerns at all points in the customer journey.

Apps aren’t the new plastic—yet. Only 18 percent of consumers have used their phones to pay for goods inside a brick-and-mortar store. The question is whether or not this figure is going to continue climbing or simply stagnate. But clearly, apps are now being developed to play an even larger role in your financial decision making. MEF suggests, though, that if such apps continue to expedite consumers’ financial transactions, it may become more popular.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve worked hard to provide our customers with as great an experience in our app as you’d have by stopping by one of our Milford or Stratford office locations. To learn more about how we’re keeping up in this ever-changing world to support you and your family, click here.

New Study Reveals Shifting Consumer Expectations for Financial Services Industry

By Jorge Santiago

The proliferation of connected technology over the past decade or more has reached a point of near ubiquity, with smartphones, tablets and other Internet-enabled devices just about everywhere we look today. These devices, and the power to connect, has given rise to a drastic shift in consumer expectations and behavior, forcing all industries to rethink their strategy for engaging and retaining customers.

The financial services industry has been no different, based on the results of a recent Accenture Consulting study. The study of nearly 33,000 banking customers spanned 18 markets throughout the world and found that five key attributes were reported consistently.

So what were the five key attributes that consumers today expect from their bank? Let’s take a closer look below:

  1. Service expectations: The modern consumer expects a high level of customer service and is not afraid to look elsewhere if expectations are not met. According to the results of Accenture’s study, a majority of consumers want banks to match tech providers’ digitally-driven service level.
  2. Personalization: Consumers today are willing to share data with their bank, this study shows, but they view data as a currency and want something in return. Banks must add value with data by personalizing experiences, from offering tools for financial management or real-time offers based on location.
  3. Appetite for innovation: Over half of survey respondents said they would want to be able to receive instantaneous financial advice via mobile communications. This exemplifies the type of innovation consumers today demand, in which new ways of accessing banking products and services can make a tangible impact in their day to day lives.
  4. Seeking self-service: While consumers do expect a high degree of customer service from their financial institutions, a majority of customers still want the availability to resolve a majority of inquiries without any assistance. This even extends into services themselves: 61 percent of survey respondents said person-to-person payment tools would be useful, while half of respondents wanted tools providing direct access to digital currencies.
  5. New branch experience: While we’re certainly living in a Digital Age, consumers still have plenty of use for their local branch too. However, they do expect that experience to change. Two-thirds of consumers say it is important to have devices that allow them to access their online banking in the branch, and that it is important to have advanced ATMs at the branch.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve taken extensive steps to stay at the cutting-edge, eagerly bringing technological innovation into our branches to facilitate a greater degree of care for our customers without sacrificing the personalized, community bank experience that makes us unique. To learn more about all the ways The Milford Bank is stepping up to meet the changing needs of our customers in the Digital Age, click here.

With the Stock Market Surging, Should You Be Investing?

By Celeste Lohrenz

Following a July 26th announcement from the Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the Fed would not be keeping interest rates unchanged through later this year at the least, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out that day at a new record high.

This caps off half a year of gains for the market, which has already seen an incredibly 25 record highs in 2017. And while investors might be doing well, many Americans are wary of putting their money into the stock market. In fact, half of Americans don’t have any of their money invested in stock or stock-based investments such as mutual funds.

While the stock market can be more risky than other investment vehicles, there is clearly opportunity given current market conditions. But it is necessary to assess your own needs, your financial limitations and your overall savings strategy before you dive in.

If you’re a Milford or Stratford resident wondering whether or not the time is right for you to invest in the stock market, here are several considerations that must factor in to your decision:

How much can you reasonably budget to invest?

The stock market is riskier than investments that guarantee a return. As such, you should not invest unless your budget allows for it. In figuring out what your budget will allow, ask yourself a simple question: how much can you stand to lose before your family’s quality of life is impacted? Answer that, and don’t exceed your limit.

Can you still find great deals in a bull market?

Those who invested prior to the market’s current hot streak will be reaping the rewards now. But eventually, there will be a correction. The market will always go up and down, so maximizing your return is simply a matter of timing. You may have missed the boat on some of the hot tech companies that have seen huge gains this year, but there are likely to be opportunities for companies and industries that have suppressed stock prices for one reason or another, and are due for a bigger close to the end of the year.

What is your overall investment strategy?

Because the stock market is a riskier investment, it is wise to mitigate your financial exposure by counterbalancing the rest of your portfolio with more conservative investments. You cannot ignore the importance of a simple savings account, but there are also plenty of other ways to put your money to work for you, from certificates of deposit to whole life insurance.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve been consulting customers on how to diversify their investments for generations. If you’re looking to learn more about how you maximize the value of your nest egg, stop by any office of The Milford Bank. You can also learn more by checking out our Online Learning Center here.

Beware These Common Types of Fraud, Part 1

By Lynn Viesti Berube

All of the technological tools we have at our disposal today can offer numerous benefits in our day to day lives. We can make financial transactions on the go, connect with long-lost friends and learn just about anything that piques your curiosity. But with all the rewards of our modern technology, there are plenty of risks too. Our smartphones, computers and tablets have also had the unfortunate consequence of empowering con-artists like never before.

Just how bad is the epidemic? According to a Javelin Strategy & Research report, identity theft and fraud cost consumers more than $16 billion in 2016—a 16 percent increase from the previous year. In order to protect yourself, it is important that you know what kinds of scams are being perpetrated today.

Here are some of the most common types of fraud that you should be aware of:

Brute-force attack: This is a hacking method to find passwords. Using this method, a hacker will test every possible combination of characters until the correct one is found. Unfortunately, there are now tools which can automate this process, making it vital for you to develop a complex password and change it regularly.

Catfish: When someone creates a fake online profile with the intention of misleading you it is called catfishing. In order to prevent being catfished, don’t accept requests on social media sites from people you don’t recognize.

Drive-by download: If you visit a website that has already been compromised with a virus or malware, your device may download it simply by visiting the site too. This can occur without you downloading anything or opening up strange links.

Ghosting: Ghosting occurs when the identity of a deceased individual is used to fraudulently conduct financial transactions such as opening credit cards, applying for loans or procuring medical treatment.

Hash busters: Typically, spam is filtered out of your email inbox. But hash busters are spam emails that are loaded up with random words or sentences in order to trick your email service into letting it into your inbox. They may include viruses or malware, and if they’re sitting in your inbox they might appear more credible and lead you to open something you might otherwise not.

Keylogger: Keylogger programs are discretely downloaded onto victims’ computers so they can track the sequence of keys you type. This provides hackers with easier odds of figuring out your passwords and other credentials.

Malvertising: Malware can come disguised as an advertisement that you see on the side of a web page. To avoid getting tricked by malvertising schemes, be sure to go directly to the official website for any business with which you wish to do business.

With the great power of the technology we have at our disposal today comes great responsibility. If you don’t take the time to protect yourself, you may end up paying for it years down the road. To learn more ways to protect your assets, stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford, or check out our Online Learning Center here. And be sure to check our blog for the conclusion to this series!

Milford, Stratford Residents: Be Wary of Identity Theft this Tax Season

By Pam Reiss

There’s nothing easy about doing your taxes. Filling out all those forms and hunting for old receipts is enough to drive anybody crazy. As if you didn’t have enough to concern yourself with during this important time of the year, you can now add another potential peril to the list: tax return fraud.

Tax return fraud is a new form of identity theft that has skyrocketed in recent years. Essentially, the con is pulled off by individuals using your information to file a false return, hoping that the IRS will send them your hard-earned refund. While you’d think that the IRS would be savvy enough to catch these criminals in the act, the agency has been overwhelmed by the frequency of fraudulent returns in recent years.

As of March 5, 2016, the IRS had identified over 42,000 tax returns with roughly $227 million claimed in fraudulent refunds. The IRS has prevented the issuance of an additional $180 million as well. While the agency does have advanced fraud detection capabilities, the evidence clearly demonstrates that they can’t catch everyone. And while the IRS will work with victims to rectify cases of identity theft, it may not be quick enough for someone who was relying on a speedy refund.

So what can you do to reduce your risk? The IRS has provided four simple measures you can take to avoid being victimized:

  • For digital interactions use strong passwords and security software with firewalls and anti-virus protection
  • Learn how to recognize phishing emails and fraudulent messages from thieves posing as representatives from banks, credit card companies and the IRS
  • Do not click links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails
  • Keep your personal data and records, including your Social Security card, in a secure location

Many individuals don’t realize they’ve been victimized until it is too late. But there are some warning signs that you should keep watch for to catch cases of fraud more quickly.

  • More than one tax return filed using your Social Security number
  • You owe additional taxes, have refunds offset or have collection actions taken against you for a year you didn’t file a tax return
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work
  • The IRS sends you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious return using your social security number

Unfortunately, consumers today cannot sit back idly and enjoy the convenient features of modern banking. They must also be vigilant and fiscally responsible. It may not be fair, but falling victim to identity theft can be incredibly detrimental for the victims themselves. Learn more ways to protect yourself by checking out our Online Learning Center or stopping by The Milford Bank location near you.

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