Newsletter August 2017



Top tips to know when buying a home
Letter from the Chairman
FAQs: New online bill pay system
Mark Ballard: The guy who keeps on giving





The Product Manufactory is a model of 21st century entrepreneurship — requiring an approach that’s intelligent and daring, full of tinkering and intense collaboration. From concept and product development to mechanical, electronic and product design, and from modeling and prototyping to package design, this one-time start-up is now recognized internationally not only for its own ventures, but also for its reliability in helping other start-ups get their ideas to the marketplace.


Headquartered in Urbana, the company’s core team members have ties to one another through the University of Illinois, where they all met through various graduate school studies in science and engineering. The idea for TPM first formed when president Bryan Wilcox “got bit by the entrepreneurship bug” after reading about Y Combinator — a Silicon Valley entity that provides start-ups with seed money, advice and mentorship in exchange for equity partnerships in the companies.


It took “about five seconds” for fellow student Mercedes Mane, now managing partner with TPM, to join in on Bryan’s idea to start a product development firm.


“At that time, we didn’t necessarily want to build things,” Mane said. “The original business model was about raising money to get manufacturing equipment and having people contract with us to use the equipment.”


Through marketing that idea, Mane and Wilcox ended up getting projects from people who wanted them to actually do the work, so their business model evolved.


“We launched January 1, 2012,” Wilcox said. “It was just Mercedes and I, working with 4 or 5 desks we begged off another business that was throwing them out.”


They were referred to BankChampaign by several business contacts and still remember their initial meeting with bank Chairman/CEO Dean Clausen and President Mark Ballard.


I asked Dean why it seemed so hard to work with banks,” Wilcox said. “So he explained how banking works and the regulatory constraints that they must operate within. Dean and Mark were so knowledgeable and willing to share their time. That was one of the first things that made an impact on us.”


Ultimately, TPM became a business that provides its services to companies of all sizes — from international corporations, including Whirlpool and P&G, to small companies like Cim-Tek, a fuel filter manufacturer based in Bement. The other piece of TPM is what Wilcox calls a “venture arm” where they both initiate and acquire projects to create and bring products to market.


One of their first clients was PlantLink — a company whose product would monitor soil moisture levels in plants — launched through EnterpriseWorks in the University of Illinois Research Park. After TPM provided industrial design and prototyping, the company raised seed money through a Kickstarter campaign. Then, after a couple of years, PlantLink’s founders decided to step away from the business. TPM took it over in 2015, revamped the products, lined up online retailers and started a relationship with Scotts/Miracle-Gro, the world’s largest marketer of consumer lawn and garden products.


Scotts acquired PlantLink in December 2016, and as part of the agreement, Mane also has a position with them, generating new ways to utilize technology in the lawn and garden.


TPM has continued to rely on BankChampaign, now working with Senior Vice President Chris Cheely and Retail Banking Officer Kellie Kneipp in addition to the bank’s top leaders. Wilcox and Mane also turned to Vice President Charlie Osborne for assistance with their personal retirement plans. “We appreciate the bank’s willingness to serve as advisors in talking through various scenarios, from structuring contracts to planning for cash flow,” Wilcox said.


“In five years, we have built this sustainable business with between six and 15 employees and we’re contributing to the community,” he added. “BankChampaign continues to be a part of that through financing for equipment loans and also for operating capital as we take on larger projects. One of the things that’s been really important to us is that we continue to have access to the bank’s leadership. At other banks, it’s often hard to actually talk to someone who is a decision-maker, but that’s not the case at BankChampaign.”


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Nick Wilkins, Vice President (NMLS #584 949)



By Nick Wilkins, Vice President (NMLS #584 949)


Whether you’re a first-time home buyer or a current homeowner interested in a change of address, these tips can help you stay on track to your goal.

  • Get pre-qualified before you look - As soon as you start thinking of looking for a home is the time to get pre-qualified for your loan. The appointment with your lender only takes about an hour, and this step can uncover issues or mistakes with your credit rating that you may not even be aware of — so you can get them fixed before you start house shopping.

  • Your credit rating affects your mortgage rate - To secure the best possible loan rate, you’ll need a credit score of 740 or higher. That doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a loan with a lower score; you just won’t get the best rate.

  • Know what determines your loan terms - In deciding how much money to lend you, and what the terms of that loan will include, banks or lenders consider your credit rating, your down payment and your income-to-debt ratio.

  • Understand what you can afford - Based on your earnings, monthly expenses and other debt, you’ll be pre-qualified for a particular amount for your monthly mortgage payment. That payment must also include the monthly amounts for your annual real estate taxes and for your annual homeowner insurance premium.

    We will then work with you to determine the loan term that reflects your pre-qualified monthly mortgage payment. This allows you to know the home price range you can afford.

  • Don’t forget other purchase-related costs - On average, closing costs for your mortgage can range from $1,500-$2,000. You should also budget for one-time expenses, such as a home inspection fee and costs to hire a moving company.

  • Have a home emergency savings account - Because it’s inevitable that unplanned expenses arise when you own a house, set aside money for house emergencies such as a broken furnace, a leaking roof or the need for a new refrigerator.

    Seem overwhelming? Let me help with financing your home. Call me at 351-7630 or email to set up your loan pre-qualification appointment.


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    L. Dean Clausen Chairman/CEO



    Being an entrepreneur myself, I am pleased to highlight our partner and customer, The Product Manufactory, in this newsletter. In many ways, TPM and its principals are the prototypical BankChampaign clients and we are excited to witness and help foster their growth, both as a business and as community leaders, while assisting them with their financial needs.


    Much like TPM’s business model which assists clients from idea to product launch, BankChampaign's Wealth Model contemplates guiding its customers from the beginning to the end of the financial cycle, through wealth attainment, on to wealth management and, finally, wealth transfer, being ever present to provide knowledge, guidance and products every step of the way. TPM and its principals have used our Wealth Model to their collective benefit, working with our knowledgeable staff in many areas of the bank, including commercial lending, retail cash management and wealth management. We look forward to continuing to help TPM grow and prosper in the years to come.


    As always, thank you for your confidence in BankChampaign and its employees and thank you for the opportunity to serve your financial and insurance needs.


    L. Dean Clausen, Chairman


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    Q. What are a few of the benefits to the new Bill Pay system?


    A. Our new Bill Pay system offers a much wider variety of payment options. For example, you can transfer money from your BankChampaign account to an account you have outside our bank. You can also pay a person electronically using their routing and account numbers instead of having to issue a check. You can even pay a person without their banking information by setting up an email payment to them through the system.


    Q. What if I need assistance while I’m working in my Online Bill Pay?


    A. The new system offers some great ways to help you. In the upper right corner of the Bill Pay screen are a CHAT NOW tab and an 888 phone number. To chat online, just click the tab and a box will pop up for you to start communicating with a representative. Or you can call the 888 phone number that offers extended hours beyond BankChampaign’s normal hours. A convenient HELP tab also appears once you click on the Bill Pay tab. Many of the tasks and features you may want to do are listed here with step-by-step instructions. And of course, you can always contact us during regular bank hours for assistance.


    Q. I have Online Banking but not Bill Pay. Do I need to come in to the bank to set that up?


    A. If you have Online Banking set up, just click the Bill Pay tab, agree to the terms and conditions stated there and you will be granted access to the Bill Pay feature.


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    Mark Ballard, President



    We hear a lot about the benefits of forming good habits early in life. Most of the time, developing those practices is primarily for our own benefit.


    But for BankChampaign President Mark Ballard, getting into the habit of helping others while he was a college student has created a ripple effect that’s benefited people in Champaign County and beyond for more than 30 years.


    “I first got interested in giving back to my community when I was in college,” Mark said. “My fraternity had volunteer requirements and I got used to helping out where it was needed.”


    His interest grew when he started his first job in an organization that also encouraged philanthropic giving and volunteerism. “That was when I was introduced to United Way,” he said. And Mark’s involvement with the organization continued after he joined BankChampaign in 1991, culminating with service in United Way’s highest volunteer leadership capacities — as chairman of the board of directors in 2005-2006, as chair of the annual fundraising campaign in 2007 and as Pillar Giving chair in 2008.


    Those vital roles mirror BankChampaign's vision for a community bank.


    “We believe we should be a living part of the community from an economic and business standpoint as we take in deposits, make loans to families and businesses and manage customers’ investments, Mark said. “And we also believe in giving back and allowing our staff to participate in various charitable and civic activities to make life here as good as it can be for everyone in the community.”


    Beyond United Way, Mark has served as chairman of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, as well as chair of its Champaign County First initiative; as the founding board chair for Promise Healthcare; as chairman of the Champaign County YMCA’s board and as a member of Champaign Public Library’s board of trustees. He’s currently the library board’s treasurer, and previously was its chairman.


    A longstanding member of Champaign West Rotary, Mark has served as its president and as treasurer; he’s currently serving as treasurer for its charities fundraising arm. It’s this Rotary connection that’s responsible for one of his favorite service project memories.


    “When I was chair of the Rotary International committee, we took a trip to Honduras to work on a new project — building a cottage at a children’s home so they could accommodate more children,” Mark said. “We had spent the previous year raising $20,000 to build it and decided to deliver the money personally. As we were walking out of the immigration and customs area in San Pedrosula, we were met by the founder of the children’s home. He’d driven a school bus filled with kids from the home to greet us. I had never seen anyone so excited to see three strangers as these happy, laughing kids who practiced some English phrases on us.”


    All of us at BankChampaign are pleased to join Mark in carrying out the bank’s vision of giving back to the community. Together, we are proud to make a difference in the place we call home.


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