Emphasis in 2014 and beyond to be on commercial lending and repositioning branch banking CHICAGO - William Farrow , president and CEO of Urban Partnership Bank , has formally announced new strategies and initiatives to bolster the bank's commercial banking business, and reposition its branch banking services. These initiatives are designed to build sustainable profitability for the bank and a strong financial foundation for its customers and urban communities. To make a significant impact in urban neighborhoods, especially in areas where unemployment hovers between 20 to 30 percent, Urban Partnership will redirect resources to further drive its small business and real estate lending business. "Commercial lending is the catalyst for urban communities," said Levoi Brown , chief commercial banker. "These funds create development opportunities that lead to new jobs and they transform abandoned and vacant homes into quality, affordable housing. When you do those things, you lay the foundation for a stronger community and create an environment conducive to generate additional investment," Brown added. One new initiative the bank will undertake in 2014 is its participation in programs like IDHA's "Home Preservation Program" - a loss mitigation alternative for borrowers who don't qualify for modification, but who might be eligible for $50,000 for payment assistance. The goal is to help prevent foreclosures and keep more people in their homes. And for the first time, the bank will begin offering fixed rate mortgage loans for prospective homebuyers at the start of the year. Also starting in 2014, Urban Partnership Bank will shift its branch banking strategy from a bricks and mortar focus to embrace a virtual approach to delivering financial services. The bank announced that it has launched upbAnywhere Online/ Mobile Banking at www.upbnk.com . This new online banking platform and mobile app will make banking easier and more accessible for all customers. It will allow the bank to be more proactive in its customer outreach-going where its customers are and not waiting for them to come into its financial centers. And in the process, it will play an instrumental role in helping efficiently grow the bank's customer base with the tech savvy, the local community, and the under-banked and un-banked populations. Consistent with the new online banking platform strategy. Urban Partnership Bank is moving away from big branches to smaller financial centers equipped with new services like cash banking and bill-pay kiosks. These services will be introduced at the bank's new financial center inside the Pullman Walmart store in the first-half of 2014, and will be rolled out to all locations by the third quarter of the year. "The retail banking landscape is changing dramatically, and we have to change with it," Brown said. "Experts predict the number of consumer interactions through physical branches to fall significantly in the coming years. At Urban Partnership Bank , we've already seen a steady decline in teller transactions and customer branch visits over the last few years. This shift requires us to reconfigure our branch structure and focus our approach on other channels, like ATMs, online banking and kiosks that conveniently serve customers in the way they want to be served." Finally, Farrow announced Urban Partnership Bank had reached an agreement with Monroe Investment Partners LLC (MIP) to acquire its South Shore financial center at 71st and Jeffery Blvd. and its nearby motor bank. Therefore the bank will close these facilities on Saturday, March 22, 2014 to allow MIP to proceed with plans to create a new retail center and bring much needed services and amenities to the neighborhood. MIP recently developed the 83rd Street Market in Chatham . "We're excited about the possibility of a new retail center at the old South Shore location. The opportunities and benefits for the entire community created by a new retail center would far exceed the benefits of a single, bank branch on a large comer-block," Farrow said. In light of the pending departure of Dominick's from the area, Urban Partnership Bank feels that redevelopment of the bank property is crucial to the community's long-term success. After the branch closes, Urban Partnership Bank still intends to maintain a presence in South Shore by incorporating a site for its ATMs and kiosks into the development plans or finding an alternative location. Urban Partnership Bank will direct South Shore customers to its new Greater Grand Crossing financial center at 7801 South State and other nearby locations in Kenwood and Chatham , all of which are staffed to serve their banking needs. Letters notifying customers of the branch closing were to be mailed Monday, Dec. 16 . In addition, the bank will aggressively promote upbAnywhere Online/Mobile Banking at www. upbnk.com as a banking alternative. To help with the transition, the bank will offer online bank training classes and free Internet instructional programs for its customers. The first online banking classes are scheduled for Jan. 7 , 8 and 9, from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. at the South Shore location. Additional online banking assistance and information are also available from personal bankers at the other Urban Partnership Bank locations and Customer Service at 773.420.5050. "We believe these are the right strategies at the right time for our bank," Farrow said. "They better align our structure and business focus with the needs of our customers and communities, and in so doing, position us for long-term success."
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