Ultima Bank combines traditional and online banking

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Ultima Bank is a relatively small institution with big ambitions. It has been serving the residents of rural Minnesota for more than 100 years, but with the launch of Ultima Bank Direct, customers from across the country can take advantage of its online-only savings accounts.

The bank started in 1904, serving the small farming community of Winger, Minnesota. At that time, it was known as the Farmers State Bank of Winger, and the institution evolved into Farmers State Bank of Fosston-Winger.

In the early 1990s, in the face of a declining rural population, the bank sought to reinvent itself. It adopted a new strategic plan that placed an emphasis on technology, and it was upon this plan that the current Ultima Bank Minnesota was conceived.

Branches plus online savings accounts

While Ultima Bank has since embraced technology -- see the details on its technological innovations below -- it has not abandoned its mission to serve traditional customers in its rural Minnesota base. The institution operates four branches in Minnesota as well as a separate loan production office.

Among the products offered through Ultima Bank Minnesota branches are checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts. Customers can also use the bank for mortgages, loans and investments. Commercial and business customers are served by the bank as well.

However, access to Ultima Bank isn't limited to those living close to its Minnesota branches. Anyone can open an online savings account through UBM Direct, the company's direct-banking option. UBM Direct's savings account offers a competitive interest rate, though a $1,000 minimum balance is currently required. The only other requirement to open an online savings account is a checking account. The checking account can be at any U.S. chartered institution and is used to fund the savings account.

A unique suite of eSolutions

To implement its strategic plan of the 1990s, Ultima Bank Minnesota deployed a suite of technology-based services. In addition to the online-only savings account offered by UBM Direct, innovative electronic options exist for its branch-based customers. The following are among the bank's eSolutions:

  • NetBanc
  • ExecuBanc
  • MobileBanc
  • Remote Deposit
  • ePay
  • eAlert
  • eStatements

Together, this suite of services allows individual and business customers to manage their money online or via mobile devices. These eSolutions allow account holders to review transactions, transfer money and pay bills. In addition, eAlert sends emails, texts or online messages to notify customers when their balance is low, a deposit has been made or certain items clear the account.

Another online contender

Customers have many options for online bank accounts today. The marketplace for online-only banks is getting more crowded all the time, and many of these institutions offers some of the highest interest rates and lowest fees of any banks in the nation.

While Ultima Bank Minnesota certainly isn't the largest or most recognized name in the industry, it is a forward-looking institution with its eye on technological innovation. Those seeking a 21st-century banking experience with the look and feel of a community bank may want to consider Ultima Bank.

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