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Vicki Gerson
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Illinois Banks Leverage Buying Power

CIMCO offers community banks telecom services.

More than 500 community banks in Illinois now have access to enhanced telecommunications services under a preferred-provider agreement reached between CIMCO Communications of Oak Terrace, Ill., and the Community Bankers Association of Illinois (CBAI).

The purpose of this agreement is to help CBAI members manage their integrated communications needs stemming from the challenges created by rapid advancements in information technology, new banking applications and expanded banking channels.

ARRAY OF TELECOM SERVICES

CBAI members have the opportunity to benefit from CIMCO's suite of local and long-distance phone services, Internet services, conference calling, voice mail, data communications, managed services and equipment. CBAI members who sign up for the service will receive a monthly Web-enabled invoice summary, which is a detailed reporting tool to help monitor and manage telecom services. Once a bank signs up, it can keep adding the services it wants to the master agreement.

In order to reach this agreement, CIMCO first made a presentation to 30 CBAI board members. Then, as part of the CBAI review process, it audited the banks of three board members.

During the audit at Scott State Bank in Bethany, Ill., CIMCO was able to identify different ways the bank could enhance its communications network.

"Without CIMCO's audit, we could have spent hours trying to locate which lines to fix if we had lost service at the main Bethany office, and it possibly would have impacted service at all seven bank locations," says Sam Scott, president of Scott State Bank.

Scott State Bank is one of five banks to sign a two-year agreement with CIMCO. Its president believes there are numerous advantages to the bank, which has $116 million in assets. CIMCO's audit estimated that the savings on the toll-free number was $400 to $500 monthly.

"Fortunately for us, the toll-free contract is on a month-to-month basis," Scott says. "The bank's long-distance contact expires in October, so we will make that switch shortly after giving 30 days' notice."

One month into the deal, Bill Capraro, CIMCO Communications president and CEO, says he expects to have 25 to 30 banks by the end of the year. "Within the next couple of years, we will have 200 to 300 banks taking advantage of this program," he adds.

Capraro believes his company, one of the three finalists, won out because of its background with financial institutions and its knowledge of state and federal regulations.

Scott sees other benefits as well by contracting with CIMCO. He likes the aspect of the consulting services available for discussions on new equipment. This is an important service because the bank has been adding new locations. Now, the bank can turn to CIMCO to get the correct telecommunications information before purchasing equipment. There will also be a service manager assigned to the bank.

"This is a real person we can talk to and develop a personal relationship with," Scott explains. "We won't be transferred from one number to another or one person to another."

Although Scott State Bank doesn't currently offer Internet banking, it plans to introduce Net-banking services early next year. CIMCO will play a part in that process, Scott says.

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