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2016 Rhode Island Financial Services Champion

DSC_0025A Champion For All SmallBusiness In Rhode Island

Holly Ferrara, Vice President of Commercial Lending, Greenwood Credit Union

“When I meet with a borrower it’s not just an interview for them, it’s an interview for me as well and I’m proud to say that, while I am the lender, I strive to make the person across from me to feel as comfortable as possible, so as to not make them feel intimidated or uneasy about the process.” The old adage of “respect goes a long way” is not lost on Holly Ferrara, Vice President of Commercial Lending for Greenwood Credit Union. “I give everyone the respect I would want myself.” This statement, while once commonplace has been lost in much of today’s hustle and bustle, relegated to a time gone by. But for Holly this is standard practice, she has the consummate “glass-half-full” attitude, naturally taking negatives and by intelligence and creative thinking makes them positives.

Greenwood Credit Union exists as a single entity, without the safety net of multiple locations. Where some may see limitations, Holly sees opportunity, “Geographically our presence is limited but I don’t find that to be a challenge, we have a great reputation in commercial lending.”

It is this same attitude that has convinced Holly to buck the mold and break out of common credit union conventions, “Commercial lending at credit unions had traditionally been geared towards small rental properties but in my four years here at Greenwood Credit Union we have expanded those horizons to include SBA loans among other commercial loan type; this expands the portfolio but more importantly meets the needs of our borrowers.”

In 2015 Holly brokered an SBA 504 loan of $335,000 for a real estate project totaling $805,000 to finance the 2,485 square foot expansion of a daycare center. The project added three new classrooms and enabled the business to accommodate up to 79 children, while also adding seven new staff positions. This is a glowing example of the effect Holly has made at GCU.

Holly began her commercial lending career in 2004 while still enrolled at Rhode Island College. She got her start as a credit analyst for a local bank and continued to professionally develop as a commercial lender, garnering increased responsibility at each and every step.

By 2010 Holly had achieved her

MBA form Bryant University and was attending various banking and commercial lending schools as well as fulfilling her passion for teaching an adjunct professor at various local schools and universities. For the last four years Holly has been in her current position as Vice President of Commercial Lending for Greenwood Credit Union. In that time she has consistently grown the commercial portfolio while making great strides in SBA lending, becoming a SBA preferred lender in 2015. As a testament to her hard work GCU finished 8th in Rhode Island for SBA lending for fiscal year 2015.

Besides her dedication to GCU, Holly also finds time to volunteer at the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center and has done so since 2008. Holly sits on the board of directors for of the organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence including domestic violence education, awareness, advocacy, and emergency shelter services.

It is these characteristics and her willingness to go above and beyond that makes it an honor to award her with the 2016 Small Business Administration Financial Services Champion of Rhode Island Award.

6 Tips To Get You Organized For Tax Season

6 Tips to Get You Ready and Organized for Tax Season Picture

by Kristin M. MacRae

When tax season arrives, do you find you’re scrambling to search for all the paperwork your accountant requested? How many of you have walked into your accountant’s office with a bag full of receipts and disheveled paperwork?  Has your accountant charged you an extra fee because you were disorganized? Get your information in order now and you won’t run into this problem next year.

Here are 6 things you can do now to get ready for next year’s tax season. 

Get organized. Have a system and a process for every email, financial document, and piece of paper that enters your office.  It’s all about creating working organized systems that will help you to become more efficient and productive.

Create a filing system.  Keep all banking and financial documents organized in a filing system. Keep your statements and receipts together. As you receive documents throughout the year, keep them organized, labeled, and filed. This will keep you on track throughout the year.

Attach receipts to credit card statements. How many of you keep an ongoing bin of receipts? Your system is to throw receipts into a bin with the other 500 receipts from that year. Do you have receipts scattered all over the office? File monthly receipts in a pouch or file. When your credit card statement arrives, match up the receipts and file with your credit card statements. Do you have electronic statements? Keep monthly receipts stored in labeled files. You’ll never have receipts floating all over your office again!

Organize and contain tax related documents. As you begin to gather information for your taxes, create a folder or small organizing container (depending on how much tax information you have) for the tax year. Keep it in your filing cabinet with other important tax documents that you refer to throughout the year. If you have an abundance of documents and use a bin, do not throw the documents into the bin, it will defeat the purposing of maintaining organization. Keep information sorted by category. You can keep track of donations, stock shares, or 401k information in one location.

Keep all prior years organized in the same area. Label all your tax information from prior years and keep contained in one bin or labeled boxes. Check with your accountant to see how many years back you need to keep documents.

Maintenance. It’s great if you set up organized systems but all your hard work will be a waste of time if you don’t maintain the systems. For most people, this is the most difficult part. Create routines from the systems you create and put the work in to maintain them.

Wouldn’t it be great to go to your file cabinet, grab all of your labeled files and visit your accountant with no effort?  Make a plan to tackle this project and you’ll be less stressed when tax season rolls around. Your accountant will have more confidence in you and you won’t be getting charged an extra fee due to your disorganization.

Financial Issues Not Minor to Minority Business Owners

by Michael Brito

When a Minority Business Enterprise/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MBE/DBE) launches into a new year it needs to operate as if all things are possible! However, the only way to look at all possibilities is with a realistic approach. Businesses must ask questions that require honest answers, answers that may carry with them hard, eye-opening realizations. In terms of finances, how did we exit the previous year? Did we meet our goals? What do we need to do to make the horizon brighter in the coming year?

If you’re managing your businesses books alone, have them reviewed –now. If your financial future is less encouraging than last year, sit down with a small business financial consultant and be willing to take any recommendations under advisement. Remember that you’re not expected to be the expert in all areas of your business, especially regarding its finances.

A wise man always knows when to seek financial advice and it should be before you need to wave the white flag. If you’re in need of financial assistance as a MBE/DBE, there’s good news…there are more opportunities to obtain financial assistance in Rhode Island than some may think. Let’s look into all possibilities when seeking one-on-one mentoring, or any form of supportive services that are now offered either by governmental, quasi-government, or private companies and agencies. Finances don’t have to be an area of dread when viewing your business forecast!

Going forward let’s look into lowering our fixed operating costs by trimming things like bonuses, traveling and fuel costs, advertising that produces low ROI’s, needless gift giving, unproductive time usage, and single tasking employees! There are many ways to get more out of your staff, your time and yourself than you may realize! Think of ways to tighten scheduling, lower your insurance risk (thereby lowering your premiums), double or triple task employees, and how to get more out of your vehicle fleet. Many “mom and pop” enterprises very often see themselves as too small to matter but even the sole proprietor should know that when you run your small business as if it where a mega-corporation, success is much more possible!

Establish a strict budget and stay on course! Heed all spending caps that you set or have your accountant become a little more involved. Don’t run personal expenses through your business –ever! Always pay yourself first and live within your means. If you want to use any service or product your business offers then pay for it, you’ll only be cheating yourself in the long run if you don’t!

I will always remember my Dad paying at the cash register of his own store before leaving with anything, I thought it was odd as a child however, I completely get it as an adult business owner. You see financial issues don’t have to be “no man’s land” so stop thinking that you don’t posses the education, knowledge or background to understand the numbers; just focus, ask for help, put your business on a fiscal diet, and you’ll be prepared for any economic situation!

Important Changes Coming to Rhode Island’s Identity Protection Law

Changes to Identity Protection in RI Picture

by Brian J. Lamoureux 

This past spring, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law the “Rhode Island Identity Theft Protection Act of 2015” (“Act”), substantially reworking Rhode Island’s 2005 data breach and identity protection law. Although the Act does not formally take effect until June of 2016, it is important for businesses to be aware of the Act’s key provisions and to take proactive measures to ensure timely compliance with the Act.

The Act generally applies to any business, person, entity, or municipality who collects and stores “personal information,” such as a person’s first name (or initial) and last name in connection with the following types of data:

  • Social security number;
  • Driver’s license number, Rhode Island identification card number, or tribal identification number;
  • Account number, credit, or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, password, or personal information number (e.g., a “PIN”) permitting access to an individual’s financial account;
  • Medical or health insurance information; or
  • E-mail address with any required security code, access code, or permitting access to an individual’s personal, medical, insurance or financial accounts.

Anyone subject to the Act must implement and maintain a risk-based information security program that contains reasonable security procedures and practices in light of the size and scope of the organization, the type of information stored, and the reasons why the information was stored and collected. This program must ensure that the information stored is kept confidential and protected from unauthorized access, use, modification, destruction, or disclosure. The Act also imposes strict and swift obligations in the event of a data breach which poses a “significant risk of identity theft” to any Rhode Island resident whose personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by an unauthorized person or entity. Although these notifications must occur as soon as possible, the Act sets an outside limit of 45 calendar days for the entity to make this notification. The Act also sets forth the particular requirements for the notification, and if there are more than 500 Rhode Islanders to be notified of a breach, the Act requires immediate disclosure of the breach to the Rhode Island Attorney General and the major credit reporting agencies.

Entities who recklessly violate the Act can face severe penalties, including a civil fine up to $100 per breached record. Any knowing or willful violations of the Act carry a $200 penalty per breached record. Further, if the Attorney General’s office has reason to believe that a person or entity has violated the Act, prosecutors are authorized to file legal proceedings against suspected violators.

In summary, the Act provides sweeping changes to Rhode Island law. Until now, if a business had adequate policies and procedures in place to protect information and notify customers in the event of a data breach, chances are those policies and procedures will not be sufficient once the Act takes effect next year. Business would be well-advised to dust off their policies and rework them to ensure they are ready to comply with the Act when it soon becomes law.

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