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Brandon Johnson and the Case of the Paperless Money

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On his 16th birthday, Brandon Johnson, Director of eServices at Choice Financial in Fargo, received a special gift from his mom. It was an orange notepad. In it were lists of numbers, all documenting the deposits his parents had put into his savings account.

“This is on you now,” she told him. “It’s your money.”

Brandon held the little notepad with reverence… and confusion. At the time, he recalls, the numbers didn’t mean much to him. It wasn’t until he turned 18 that he got more involved with banking.

Now, as an expert in online banking, he looks back on that time and marvels at how much banking has changed. When he received that little notepad, almost no one was using online banking. Everything was written down, carefully documented, using paper.

At Choice Financial, Brandon has witnessed the rise of online banking since shortly after its integration into their system in the early 2000’s.

“It was clunky at first, compared to what we use today” Brandon said. “It was something new and unknown.”

Now, Brandon says, we live in a world that has everything online. And from that world, the realm of  financial technology — or FinTech — has emerged. Most banks now have mobile apps that allow you to check your account and even deposit checks using a photo you snap with your phone. There are even newer bank startups which have no brick and mortar locations, operating entirely online.

“Every system Choice Financial uses has gone through rigorous due-diligence, and has earned the trust of the bank.”

Naturally, not everyone has welcomed the transition from in-person to cloud-based banking. Brandon can understand both sides of the coin. “We think it’s important to put people first when making technology decisions. We think a lot about the experience and how to keep it personable.” Here are a few common questions he receives about online banking, and his response.

How do I know my personal information is secure online?

Brandon believes the up-to-date security built into their software systems and protections the bank puts in place do an excellent job in keeping personal information secure online or on a mobile device. Every system Choice Financial uses continually goes through thorough testing to address security concerns and has earned the trust of the bank.

We each play a big part in keeping our personal information secure. And that’s just as important offline as it is online. To preserve the security of your information, know who you are sharing your information with, securely store any personal information (and securely dispose of it if you don’t need it), always question before you decide to share information and maintain proper security on your computer and other devices. Take some additional tips from our cybersecurity pro, Security Steve.

“Online documentation allows us to back you up when something goes wrong.”

“There will likely always be hackers, like there will likely always be criminals.” Brandon said, “but there are also good guys building protection, and monitoring criminal activity every second. Those good guys help increase the benefits of banking online by reducing the risk.”

“In the rare case someone does use your information online,” he added “the bank has your back. We have a team dedicated to online services, here to help you get things straightened out.”

Keeping everyone’s personal and financial information confidential is one of Choice Financial’s core values and Brandon says they carry that into their systems and practices every day.

What are the benefits of being paperless?

In short —  it’s easier! When you are online, it’s simpler to keep up with your financial life and you eliminate the slew of papers that come in the mail and invariably end up in the trash. It’s not only more efficient for you, but also for the bank in supporting you and keeping you more closely connected to your money.

“You shouldn’t have to keep track of all the papers and receipts that the bank is producing,” Brandon said. “Online, you are seeing things on a more real-time basis. You’re getting ongoing interaction rather than a monthly check-in.”

When you wait for a monthly statement, you might not see a case of fraud or financial loss until weeks after it has happened. When you can check in online, you can notice and address things immediately.

“Not to mention, you’re doing yourself a favor by taking all that paper with sensitive information out of your car, and your house,” he added.

What does Choice Financial offer?

  • Pay your bills online: This is geared for paying your bills all in one spot. You can also mail a check to any person in the U.S.A —the paper is on us. Sign up and you’ll never deal with the stamps, envelopes and checks associated with paper bills again! You can even set up electronic versions of some of your paper bills here. 
  • Mobile App + Web: Say you’re at Hornbachers, and want to make sure you have enough in your account  for a $150 grocery tab. Voila, you can! You can check your account balance anytime, anywhere using Choice’s mobile app and website.
  • Text Banking: If you don’t want to use the app, or if you don’t have a smart phone, text banking is a simple way to check your bank account in real time. Text in a quick short code, 79680. Then you can use letter commands to check your account. Type “B” to check your Balance. You will get a text with your balance at that moment. Other commands include “H” for History, which shows your last 5 transactions, and “M” for More History if you want to keep going back in time.
  • Make check deposits on your smartphone: Received a check in the mail and don’t want to put on pants to drive to the bank? No pants, no problem. Using Choice’s mobile app, you can make check deposits from anywhere.
  • Business Banking: For businesses that like to work smarter, we’ve got an advanced version of online banking. Save time during your day by managing your cash flow and depositing checks online. You can also provide direct deposit payroll for your employees, pay vendors, collect payments from customers or donations from your supporters all online, quickly.

“…as the world moves into a future that is increasingly tech-based, Brandon sees opportunity for more progress in merging the worlds of banking and technology.”

Goodbye Orange Notepad

Brandon’s parent’s loved to come into Choice Financial and chat with the people. So when Brandon brought up the idea of banking online, they were a little skeptical. But when Brandon started to explain the text banking option, that clinched the deal for his Mom. When he showed her how she could text from her phone and check her bank account, she was convinced.

“It wasn’t enough for them that their son worked in online banking,” he said, laughing. “I explained to my mom, ‘It’s just like texting. You love texting your family, right?… It’s like that. It keeps you connected more closely.”

Brandon’s parents still love to stop into the bank to chat. But when they are on the go, now they have the tools to stay connected to bank wherever they are.

Yes, it’s a far cry from Brandon’s old orange notebook. But as the world moves into a future that is increasingly tech-based, Brandon sees opportunity for more progress in merging the worlds of banking and technology. With our bank at our fingertips, we have more time to spend with the people we love, doing the things we love.

Online banking, is a good first step. 


Brandon Johnson is the Director of eServices at Choice Financial and has worked there for over a decade. He studied Business Administration at NDSU and joined the Choice team soon after. While at college, he briefly wanted to be a geologist in order to explore the world. Instead, he ended up following his passion for music and traveled around the country seeing bands in nearly all 50 states. One of his hobbies is finding music to score and soundtrack movies, and life. As eServices Director, he thrives on learning about people and technology, and then trying to create a better experience when interacting with their financial life.