In Our Community

FirstPrize $avings Account: Recent Winner Announced

We’re excited to announce that Carlene Green of Stamford, CT is our most recent winner of the FirstPrize $avings account $1,000 drawing. Responding to the overwhelming need for consumers to increase their savings, we designed the FirstPrize $avings account to inspire those over the age of 18 to save by encouraging frequent and consistent deposits. With each eligible deposit of $25 or greater into this savings account, account holders can automatically earn chances to win $1,000. Account holders can earn up to ten chances per month and up to 30 chances per three month drawing period. A winner is selected in a random drawing held four times per year.

“You made my day. I’m so excited!’ said Carlene when she was told she was the winner of the $1,000 FirstPrize $avings account drawing for the period December 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017. Robert Granata, COO and President of First County Bank was equally as excited to present Carlene with the $1,000 check. “I’m happy to present Carlene Green with $1,000 for winning the Bank’s FirstPrize $avings account drawing,” said Granata. “First County Bank developed the new product in order to provide a cash prize incentive to encourage people to save, while making saving money exciting.”

The next drawing period has already begun! If you haven’t already, sign-up for this account and begin building your savings with a chance to win $1,000! Account details, rules and regulations can be found at: https://firstcountybank.com/firstprize-savings.

Carlene Green is presented with $1,000 by Justyna Nurczyk, Branch Manager and Robert Granata, COO & President, First County Bank

Carlene Green is presented with $1,000 by Justyna Nurczyk, Branch Manager, First County Bank and Robert Granata, COO & President, First County Bank

In Our Community, Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Juanita James and “The Bright Side”

juanita_jamesIn a recent article from the Greenwich Times, First County Bank Corporator, Juanita James was profiled in an article titled, “The Bright Side.” As an established businesswoman and philanthropist, James credits this to always having a positive outlook. From early challenges at Princeton University to becoming the first in her family to graduate from college, “she never loses her smile.”

As a businesswoman, James held high-level executive positions at both Time Inc. and at Pitney-Bowes, here in Stamford. Some of her recognition include being named, Stamford’s Citizen of the Year and Most Influential Black Corporate Directors.

Noting her challenges but choosing to dwell on her positive experiences, James states, “There seems to always be periods of great dissatisfaction and usually we come out of it with great leadership, because in the end, people want to be happy. As leaders, we need to generate that. Each of us has that power.” We congratulate Juanita on her accomplishments and are proud to have her as a First County Bank Corporator.

To read the full article, click here.

First County Bank Profile

Get to Know Beth Brucker

022B2234Gray croppedMeet Beth Brucker, Mortgage Loan Originator.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I began my career in the mortgage industry in 2002. Since then, I have held a wide range of roles including processing, underwriting, origination, management and operations. These experiences helped me build an unwavering focus on customer service.

I’ve been a resident of Connecticut for over 35 years. I originally lived in Westport, but was forced to move after our home was damaged during Hurricane Sandy. I now live in North Wilton with my husband, dog and cat. I have remained involved in the Westport Community as a member of the Westport Rotary and recently served as a member of the Westport Shellfish Commission. After a long week, I look forward to evening cuddles with my cat Tutti and early morning runs with my dog Riley.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?

My favorite part of my role at First County Bank is a shared belief system – the idea of being someone a customer or client can trust while also providing the best service possible.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?

“What is the overall process?” and “What is the best loan program suited for me?” Those are the most frequently asked questions I hear.

What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?

Shop carefully and make sure that when receiving advice, it’s from someone you can trust.

 

First County Bank Foundation

Hurry – The Grant Deadline is Approaching!

sdfasdfsdfasOur Foundation was established in 2001 to honor the Bank’s 150th Anniversary. Since then, the First County Bank Foundation has awarded over 1,000 individual grants, worth over $7.5 million to local nonprofit organizations that support community and economic development, affordable housing and quality of life initiatives, and educational enrichment programs for families and children.

Our Standard Grant Application is quickly approaching its March 31st deadline. All grant requests are considered, with the average amount awarded in the range of $2,500 to $5,000. The priority areas of focus are programs that:

  • Support community and economic development such as job skills training and placement, initiatives to promote independence and self-sufficiency, meeting food, clothing, health and shelter needs, senior services and family support programs.
  • Increase the availability of affordable housing and programs that support quality of life including supportive and transitional housing, housing rehabilitation programs and first time homebuyer initiatives.
  • Provide educational enrichment for families and children including mentoring programs, summer activities, funding for college classes and parenting classes.

In an effort to streamline the application process and make it easier to apply, we are pleased to announce our new online application. To apply for the Standard Grant, click here or visit the link below.

http://firstcountybank.com/standard-grant

First County Bank Profile, Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Get to Know Dave Zamary

David Zamary

David Zamary

Meet Dave Zamary, Senior Vice President, Residential Lending Manager.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I currently live in Milford, CT with my wife and dog Chance. I have been with First County Bank for over 30 years. In my tenure I have experience with all aspects of mortgage origination, specializing in residential purchase and refinance, lending, and construction permanent lending. When I am not helping homebuyers get into the home of their dreams, I am active in my local community as a Knights of Columbus member and volunteering at a local food pantry.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
I enjoy helping home buyers get into their home. I especially enjoy helping first-time homebuyers as it is often such an exciting experience for them.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
Top three questions are: How long I’ve been with the Bank? How old is the Bank? Is the Bank stock or mutual? Clients are often most pleased to hear that I have been with the Bank for over 30 years and that we are a mutual community bank.

What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?
Go for it! Interest rates are still low and the purchase market is starting to get busy. It’s a good time to buy or sell.

 

Bank News

First County Bank Honored as 2017 Healthy Workplace Employer

First County Bank was honored by The Business Council of Fairfield County in their 2017 Healthy Workplace Employer Recognition Program as a Gold category employer. The recognition program was held Friday, February 9, at the Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa.

“First County Bank is honored to be among such a distinguished group of employers which actively work to promote employee health and well-being,” said Rey Giallongo, chairman and CEO of First County Bank. “We ‘re proud to be recognized as a Gold award recipient this year, which showcases our continued efforts to enhance our employee health and wellness initiatives.”

“What has been fascinating to witness is how companies continue to improve upon their wellness programs and are steadfast in making wellness a priority,” commented Anthony Aguanno, senior account executive, UnitedHealthcare of CT, Inc. and co-chair, The Business Council’s Wellness Roundtable. “From increasing engagement to identifying modifiable risk factors, these employers have been able to increase employee satisfaction and productivity while posting medical cost savings.”

Eric Thompson, principal, BlueBack, LLC., Vanessa Calabro, vice president, human resource manager, First County Bank, and Anthony Aguanno, senior account executive, UnitedHealthcare, and co-chair, The Business Council’s Wellness Roundtable at the 2017 Healthy Workplace Employer Recognition Event.

The 2017 Healthy Workplace Employer Recognition Program applauded the efforts of area employers who understand the competitive advantage of a healthy workforce and who have implemented a diverse range of programs to promote a healthy workplace and assist their employees to live healthier lives. The recognition program was presented by The Business Council’s Wellness Roundtable, with the generous support of First Niagara Risk Management Services Inc. and UnitedHealthcare of CT, Inc. The Healthy Workplaces Employer Recognition Program offers three categories of distinction, Platinum, Gold and Silver, awarded on the basis of program components and outcomes.

Trends & Tips

Expectations for the 2017 Housing Market

Entering the Housing MarketIn 2016 we saw the housing market become very competitive. There was an influx of buyers, but the number of sellers seemed to plateau. Many factors made 2016 interesting, such as continued record-low rates, a perceived lack of new home production from builders, and the millennial market began to show interest in buying homes. A “Housing Outlook for 2017” article from Forbes, discusses eight predictions for 2017 covering similarities and differences from 2016.

Here are some of the expectations for 2017:

  1. Prices will continue to rise—but more slowly. Real estate brokerage Redfin, “expects the median home sale prices to gain 5.3% in 2017 compared to 2016.” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices added to the conversation stating, “With the current high consumer confidence numbers and low unemployment rate, affordability trends do not suggest an immediate reversal in home price trends.”
  2. Credit availability will improve—maybe. While the Trump Administration has not set out to directly impact the housing market, expected changes and deregulation of the Dodd-Frank Act could have an effect on banks and their ability to provide loans to a larger variety of buyers.
  3. More millennials will become homeowners—and renters. “According to Zillow half of all buyers are under age 36 … Of course much of this is due to the fact that Millennials—adults born after 1980—are now the largest adult generation and make up the greatest percentage of the workforce.”
  4. Competition will grow. Redfin began measuring the average time that homes were on the market in 2009. In 2016, Redfin recorded the average time was just 52 days. It is expected that this time will be even shorter in 2017.

If you’re considering entering the housing market in 2017, it will be vital for you to know and understand what is happening in the market. To read more of the Forbes article, click here. If you’re looking for more personal information on your situation and surrounding market, talk to one of our Mortgage Experts.

Sponsorships & Events

Talented Teen Chefs Battle with Maple Syrup

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 10.47.18 AMFive talented teen chefs will compete in First County Bank’s Teen Chefs Challenge event at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center during this year’s Maple Sugar Festival Weekend held on March 4 and 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Saturday, March 4, the teen chefs will compete in an exciting competition to create the best-tasting recipe, using maple syrup as an ingredient. This year marks the 17th anniversary of First County Bank sponsoring this family festival highlighting the New England tradition of maple sugaring.

On Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Lillian (Lilly) Roman of Easton, Isabelle Braten of Wilton, Vanessa Romano of Stamford, Shannon Lyons of Stamford and Connor Turpin of Greenwich are scheduled to battle it out in the kitchen at the Main House, Bendel Mansion.

The teen chefs will present their culinary creations for the public and celebrity judges to sample. Judging will be conducted with the winner declared by popular vote and by a panel of celebrity judges: Rey Giallongo, Chairman and CEO, First County Bank; Karen Kelly, Senior Vice President, First County Bank; Jim Calkins, Executive Chef and Owner, Seasonal Catering; Rylie Walker, the 2016 winner of the First County Bank Teen Chefs Challenge. The winning chef and recipe will be announced at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Maple Sugar House.

“The First County Bank Chefs Challenge is a highlight of the Maple Sugar Festival Weekend,” said Robert Granata, COO and President, First County Bank. “The Maple Sugar Festival provides an excellent opportunity for these young chefs to showcase their culinary abilities and further develop their talent. Maple syrup, of course, is the key ingredient that each teen chef needs to incorporate into their dishes for the public and celebrity judges to taste and judge. We appreciate each of the teen chef’s contributions to the entertainment and look forward to a weekend full of great food, fun, learning and old-fashioned New England traditions.”

About the Chefs

Lillian (Lilly) Roman, 16                                               

Joel Barlow High School, 11th grade

Easton, CT

Lilly is entering the competition because “I really enjoy baking and hope to make a career out of it. This would be a good experience for my first steps in becoming a professional baker.” Her competition recipe will be banana maple bread pudding with maple cream sauce topped with maple whipped cream and a maple glazed banana chip.

Isabelle Braten, 13

Middlebrook School, 8th grade

Wilton, CT

Isabelle has been cooking and baking with family and friends since she was 5 years old. Not only does Isabelle cook for her family every day, she is always baking special treats for friends and teachers at school. Isabelle has learned various techniques from taking cooking lessons and watching her favorite cooking shows on The Food Network. When Isabelle is not in the kitchen you can find her playing the flute, laughing with friends or ballroom dancing.

Vanessa Romano, 13

Rippowam Middle School, 8th grade

Stamford, CT

“I love to bake and cook, but baking is my favorite.  I love to try different recipes and sometimes add a little something new to a recipe for a change.  Sugar cookies are my favorite since I was a little girl. I also love the way a house smells after you’ve baked.” Vanessa plans to make maple syrup sugar cookies shaped like leaves for the competition.

Shannon Lyons, 16

J.M. Wright Technical High School, 10th grade

Stamford, CT

Shannon has been baking with her mom and dad since she was in Kindergarten, when she started baking brownies for her birthday to take to school. “I think participating in the Teen Chefs Challenge would be a wonderful opportunity to further my culinary skills.  I look forward to creating a recipe and developing it to create the best taste and flavor profile.” When Shannon is not in the kitchen baking, she loves reading, volunteering with K-2nd graders and learning American Sign Language (PSE).

Connor Turpin, 15

J.M. Wright Technical High School, 10th grade

Greenwich, CT

Connor has been cooking and baking with his dad since he was 10 years old. Now he enjoys baking many different foods. “I would like to participate in the Teen Chefs Challenge because it sounds like a fun event and will give me the opportunity to showcase my kitchen skills.” When he is not creating treats in the kitchen, he plays ice hockey and works at the ice rink in Greenwich.

Smart Savings Tips, Trends & Tips

How we Celebrate America Saves Week

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Brooke Ann Bean of Stamford is presented with a $1,000 check as our First-Ever FirstPrize $avings Winner.

We understand the importance, but also the challenge of putting extra cash aside. Building your savings is a challenging task for most Americans. America Saves Week was established in 2007 to promote savings and the positive benefits of this difficult task.

At First County Bank, we promote savings every week of the year, and developed the FirstPrize $avings Account to make savings more enjoyable. This account allows you to build your savings while earning chances to win $1,000. Every month, the first ten deposits of at least $25 into the account automatically earn entries for a chance to win!1  It’s only appropriate that America Saves Week is the same week as our second drawing period. We’re excited to announce that, we will soon have our second FirstPrize $avings $1,000 Winner!

Saving is a challenge. However there’s no reason it can’t be exciting at the same time. If you’re ready to shake things up and turn saving into a positive experience, talk to your local banker or visit one of our branches to open a FirstPrize $avings account. To learn more about the FirstPrize $avings Account, click here or visit the link below.

http://firstcountybank.com/firstprize-savings

 

1 Refer to http://www.firstcountybank.com/savings-account-disclosure for account official rules and disclosure.

Smart Savings Tips, The CEO's Posts

On Building an Emergency Fund – How Much for That New Transmission?!

RGCEO1According to conventional wisdom, everyone will at some time have a need for emergency funds. Unfortunately, many people still live their lives “paycheck to paycheck.” As a result, setting aside money for unexpected expenses can be a real strain on one’s household.

Before we tackle the issue of how to save for a rainy day, let’s figure out how much to save “just in case.” Most companies and nonprofits I work with say having six months worth of expenses set aside should carry their organization through a financial emergency. I think the same holds true for most families. A good starting point is to set aside at least six months of living expenses – household expenses, food and clothing allowances, health care costs and, of course, transportation expenses, to name a few.

Sure, this is easier said than done so here is some help on how to start. First, set a goal and talk with one of our financial experts at First County Bank about enrolling in an automatic savings program, which can be set up to deposit a portion of your paycheck to a savings account. Our trusted advisors will help you navigate your options to find the best savings plan to suit your individual lifestyle. The key is having immediate liquidity so be sure you don’t tie your emergency fund up in a CD, which generally makes funds harder to access at a minute’s notice. Investment products are also not the best vehicle for an emergency fund because of their inherent risk so you may want to steer clear of those.

Another tip is, resist the temptation to spend your tax refund and add it to this emergency account instead. Additionally, reviewing your expenses carefully may provide you with an opportunity to plan your budget and watch unnecessary expenses until you have achieved your financial goal. There are many easy-to-use online tools to help you save; a simple Google search is a good starting point for that.

Finally, resist the temptation to break open this “piggy bank” for a vacation or any expense that doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency. You’ll find that the alternatives to not having an emergency fund—like borrowing from a friend or family member—  aren’t ideal. Just watch any episode of Judge Judy to see how badly that can end.