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GUEST COLUMN: Colorado Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, Dives into Her Deceptive Solicitations Act

As Secretary of State, my priority is to make running a business easier, cheaper, and more accessible to hardworking Coloradans while cutting red tape and saving Coloradans money. That’s why I’m immensely proud that the Deceptive Solicitations Act has been signed into law. This new law — one of my priorities in the 2023 legislative session — protects business owners from bad actors who want to capitalize on the fact that, as a business owner, you already have a great deal going on. 

READ: What Colorado Employers Should Expect in the 2023 Legislative Session

Here’s how it worked before this new law went into effect:

A bad actor would create a solicitation that looked like it was from my office and that implied you were due to file or register with us. The solicitation would ask for an artificially high payment, and the bad actor who sent it would hope that you wouldn’t think twice about paying an exorbitant cost when it arrived at your door — because you have enough on your plate as a business owner, so you wouldn’t notice the deception. These solicitations are meant to look official and make a quick buck off your limited bandwidth.

If you’re a business owner yourself, you’ve probably received one of these solicitations in the mail and asked yourself, “is this real?” And maybe you’ve even said, “Yes, this is real, and I should pay it,” only to discover you’ve been deceived out of earnings you worked hard for. 

The truth is that my office makes online filing available to business owners at low costs — or even for free, in many cases — but bad actors would rather profit off your hard work than direct you to us. The Deceptive Solicitations Act, Senate Bill 23-037, establishes criteria for solicitations like these, and penalties for failing to meet them.

With limited exceptions, such as registered agents, any solicitation from a third party related to documents filed with or provided by the Secretary of State’s office must now include:

  • A written disclaimer in 24-point font declaring that the solicitation is an advertisement.
  • Information explaining that you can file and retrieve documents directly with my office.
  • Contact information of the person soliciting the fee or sending the solicitation.

It is also now illegal for these solicitations to imply the document is issued by a state agency or local government, or that it imposes a legal duty on the business.

With these changes in Colorado law, business owners in the Centennial State can rest easy knowing that they can remain focused on what matters most: their customers and the people they serve. Colorado’s business owners are the backbone of our great state’s economy, and I’m proud to work on their behalf so they can continue to grow and thrive. 

 

Jena GriswoldJena Griswold is Colorado’s 39th Secretary of State. She was first elected in 2018. She was reelected to the office in 2022 and is the youngest elected Secretary of State in the United States. Since taking office, Secretary Griswold has overseen seven statewide elections, protected Coloradans Constitutional right to vote and supported the State’s business community by cutting red tape and the cost of starting a business.

Q&A — Michael Walters Talks Future of Business Banking with KeyBank

ColoradoBiz caught up recently with Michael Walters, who in September was named Keybank’s head of business banking across a 15-state footprint. Walters, who was named a ColoradoBiz Top 25 Young Professional in 2020, previously served as executive vice president and west regional retail executive, overseeing KeyBank’s retail branch network across the Western U.S.

In his new role, Walters leads a national team dedicated to serving the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, their owners, and employees with customized, industry-specific banking solutions.

READ — How to Know When It’s Time to Switch Banks

 

ColoradoBiz: How did you get started in banking?

Michael Walters: I started in Cleveland more than two decades ago as an underwriter as part of a training program I enrolled in right out of college. Interestingly, I had a degree in Management Information Systems (MIS), but there weren’t any jobs for MIS majors at the end of the dot com bubble, so I thought I’d try my hand at banking. I kind of fell into it, and now in hindsight, I’m really glad it worked out the way it did!

 

CB: What brought you to (or attracted you to) KeyBank?

MW: I’ve been at Key for five years now, and the big thing that attracted me to Key is the combination of national banking capabilities with a community banking feel. Key has a culture similar to a community-based bank, but we have the resources and capabilities of a national bank. For me, it’s the best of both worlds.

 

CB: You’ve been named head of business banking for KeyBank. What does that role entail?

MW: I am responsible for Key’s Business Banking segment, nationwide, which specializes in providing products and services to owner-operated small and mid-sized businesses. We are focused on companies from pre-revenue, generally up to $25 million in annual sales across our 15-state footprint and nationwide on certain KeyBank business lines, like our franchise business and Small Business Administration (SBA) lending. We are nationally ranked as a national top 10 SBA Lender and have a lot of expertise when it comes to small business lending.

 

CB: How would you describe the current state of business banking?

MW: We’ve been incredibly busy helping our clients to grow their businesses and focus on their financial health, as they navigate uncertain times. We have a great team of specialists in place, and we help thousands of business owners improve their cashflow and run their businesses better every day. It’s a line of business that has been around for a long time and is positioned well for continued growth.

As an industry, it’s a challenging time to be a business owner. The economic environment is tough, from trying to find and retain talent, to supply chain challenges, to rising costs. I think that’s why small and mid-size business owners need a strong experienced banking partner like we have on our team at KeyBank. We specialize in helping business run better, navigating difficult times, and helping these clients grow. We’re proud to help the businesses in the communities we serve.

READ — What Does a Recession Mean for Your Finances? 

 

CB: What’s next in the evolution of business banking? Do you see growth in the recovery from COVID?

MW: Business banking has been and continues to be an advice-based product offering.

Business owners often choose their bank based on the expertise of the relationship manager in front of them, and they want people who are able to provide a range of knowledge and guidance as their business grows. We want to continue to show up in that fashion for our clients.

At the same time, business owners want a lot more capabilities when it comes to banking, specifically when it comes to digital platforms. We need to continue to give good advice, but also deliver a variety of digital tools, whether helping them automate their accounts payable and accounts receivable processes, or just helping them run their businesses more digitally every day. It’s still a people-based business, but now we need to be able to deliver digitally.

This past spring we launched a new interactive tool called the KeyBank Small Business Check-in, which helps small business clients assess where they currently stand financially, evaluate their goals, and discover how Key can help open new opportunities toward their path forward. Coming out of the considerable challenges of the pandemic, with inflation and labor shortages we wanted to ensure that small business owners had convenient access to the tools, resources, and advice they needed to be successful.

In terms of COVID recovery, there are still a lot of headwinds to growth. The war for talent and rising costs are real challenges facing our clients. The pandemic and its effects of the past few years certainly have been a disruptor, but we’ve also found new and better ways to serve our clients that arose out of these times.

 

CB: KeyBank has quite a few executive-level leaders based here in Colorado. What’s behind the investment in corporate leadership in this market?

MW: Denver is a tremendous economy with a great growth story, and we recognize that, as a regional bank, we need a big presence in Colorado in order to be successful in the West. As a result, we’ve had some executives relocate to be here and a part of this great community.

We’ve also learned a lot since COVID about how you don’t always need to be in the same city as corporate headquarters to be successful in a leadership position. Within Business Banking, we’ve looked across our entire footprint for talent, even when we look to promote people into critical leadership roles. We’re intentionally creating opportunities to attract and retain talent through the expansion of our recruiting efforts and the evolution of some of our virtual channels. These changes allow many of our teammates to work from locations that are best for them and their family. We’re finding that in many parts of our business, we can be very successful virtually with our clients and while working within teams. At the same time, we will continue to maintain a local presence for our clients that rely on us across our many geographies.

 

CB: This is a competitive banking market. How does KeyBank differentiate itself?

MW: A bank’s true product is really advice and partnership. We are not in the transaction business, we specialize in relationships. We differentiate ourselves by helping businesses achieve their goals and helping them grow. We do that with sound advice and capabilities that deliver on the advice we give.