Association Banking and Technology
On the job with Heather Karamitsos, senior vice president, director of association banking at American Momentum Bank.
You may know someone involved with the board of a homeowners or condo association. You may not know about specialized association banking they deal with and all the intricate technology involved. Thankfully, Florida native Heather Karamitsos does. As the leader of American Momentum’s association banking division, Karamitsos travels all over the state to meet with community managers and set up technology that helps their accounting departments manage their processes. Here, she explains more about what goes on behind the scenes after people send in their checks.
What is association banking, exactly?
Association banking works solely with large management companies that man- age homeowners’ associations and condominiums. We work primarily on a wholesale basis so we typically deal with management companies, but sometimes we have standalone properties. There’s a lot of technology needed to accommodate the large sum of receivables this business line has.
The large sum of receivables this client base has needs to be automated. For example, if you have a management company that’s managing 100 associations on average, they’re probably managing 10,000 payments monthly. There’s a lot behind the scenes on the accounting side and that’s where the specialty niche comes in—to understand their receivables and payables process and streamline it.
How did you get into this field?
My parents owned restaurants in the Keys, so I worked in restaurants for many years before I decided it was time to grow up, go to school and have a real life. Working as a waitress taught me that being a consultant and salesperson at the same time yields better results than just being an order taker.
I started my banking career in 1996 at Bank Atlantic. I worked my way up the ranks: platform association to teller, to operations manager, to branch manager, to lender. Then I went into the treasury field, which is when I began working in association banking.
What kind of cutting-edge technology do you get to use?
Tech has changed significantly since I started 20 years ago. Technology has to adapt to be able to see hundreds of bank accounts in one view. People would be surprised at the sheer volume of payables and receivables that go through a management company. It all needs to be processed and tracked correctly. At American Momentum Bank, we use a joint lock box and property management software system. We also have optical recognition—so if someone sends in just a check without their coupon [or if they use their bank’s bill pay system], we can use optical recognition to remember the fields of that check. When the same one comes in next month, we’ve already identified it and don’t need to process it all over again.
Will you sit on a community association board when you retire?
Winter is high season, when the management companies have their annual reviews—so I attend about 40 board meetings a year. I think I’ve put in my time and paid my dues. When I retire, I’m just going to retire.