Leah Raatz spent the summer following her daughter’s senior year of high school preparing her for college. Leah herself earned a degree in business with a concentration in finance, and she wanted her own child to be prepared for her education, as well as the financial responsibilities that come with it.
Her passion for encouraging her own daughter’s education and financial literacy was simply maternal instinct.
That following summer, Leah joined Old National and her motherly instinct carried over into her role as customer service representative with the bank. Her natural knack for recognizing a person’s potential and her initiative to educate others has helped clients establish and meet their goals.
Such was the case the first time Leah met a long time Old National client, Anthony.
One day while visiting the banking center, Anthony mentioned he was tired of renting, and thought by the time he was 30, he’d have accomplished more of his personal goals.
Leah suggested he purchase a place of his own - his first home. Discouraged, Anthony informed Leah this was his dream, but he’d applied for loans with other institutions in the past, and been turned down. He had no established credit. He’d never known the importance of his credit score – and learned the hard way: no credit made homeownership financing difficult.
He’d given up hope. And just wanted to vent a little, since Leah was willing to listen.
Anthony kept a healthy banking relationship with Old National over the years. He’d been employed at the same factory for 10 years, and living in the same apartment during that time.
Leah tried to get to know Anthony a little better during their chat, simply trying to find an opportunity to help Anthony get started on establishing credit, and work toward his goal of homeownership.
Sure enough, she discovered Anthony owned his vehicle.
Leah knew this could be an asset to create an opportunity for him. Anthony could apply for a loan using his truck as collateral, and as he repaid the loan, he’d be taking his first steps to establishing a credit score – the number many financial institutions monitor when considering an applicant for any financing – such as a home loan.
“Anthony had a lot of good things going for him. His length of employment and residency, his checking and savings balances at the bank. I told him I would point out his strengths to the underwriters of the loan. I’d go to bat for him. He deserved it,” says Leah.
And that’s exactly what she did. Instead of simply submitting Anthony’s paperwork, Leah told his story, giving the underwriters insight into Anthony’s life, and background into his rental, employment and healthy banking history.
She took the extra time needed to help them understand why Anthony should be given a chance, and why considering him for a loan would be a smart “risk” for the bank.
And the underwriters agreed.
Leah called Anthony with the great news, and he was ecstatic. She stayed after hours that day so he could come by the bank after leaving work and close on the loan.
During the close, Leah and Anthony discussed more options for building credit, like opening a secured Visa® Credit Card to help build his credit score even faster, and she taught him how to keep an eye on his score while he took the steps to establish credit.
Together, they created a manageable plan for establishing the credit Anthony needed to buy a home. Working with Leah, Anthony set a goal of becoming a first-time homeowner within the next two years. In the meantime, he would be equipped with financial tools to build his credit along the way.
This type of outcome is just as rewarding for Leah, as it is the client.
“If we can set a person on the right path, and help them own a home, that’s the American dream, isn’t it?” says Leah.
And she knows each client’s goals are different.
Another client, a 22-year-old college student like her own daughter, was paying a high interest rate on her vehicle. Leah worked with her for just over a year, taking financial steps to build her credit score to a whopping 740! The goals they established, including paying off a derogatory bill from the client’s credit report, made her eligible for refinancing her car loan with Old National. She was able to cut one year off the term of her loan, lower her interest rate by half and lower her monthly payment! Leah even drove an hour and a half to the Ball State campus, working around the student’s busy college schedule to make it all possible for her.
For another client, Leah tracked down a tax lien he unknowingly owed. The lien was affecting his credit score, and his eligibility for financial products he needed for his life. The customer paid off the debt, improving his credit, and helping him achieve his goals.
“I don’t like people just being treated like a number,” says Leah. “So I take the time to get to know clients. And have a conversation with them. And find out what they need. This is a service we need to provide our clients. When I was young, I would have wanted someone to give me a chance. We don’t just take deposits. It’s just much more than that.”
With more than 20 years of banking experience, Leah understands things aren’t always black and white. And customers won’t always get a “yes” the first time. But each one has a story. And sometimes being a client’s banker for life simply involves recognizing a person’s potential, and taking a chance that could help change their life.
And she says Old National is the reason she can be herself, and do this work.
“I have to be honest, this is the best bank I’ve ever worked for. Our passion for customers is why I can do this work. There’s a lot more to banking than you know!”
Just starting out and wanting to build credit?
When you’re ready to start building a strong credit history, we’re here to help with our specialized First Time Borrowing Program.