Where you choose to bank is often based upon convenience, interest rates paid and charged and the level of service. Big banks are serial advertisers, are located seemingly everywhere, their ATMs are ubiquitous and free to use if you are a customer, they offer competitive interest rates and try to serve their customers well. Community banks just don’t have the same resources. Advertising is limited, branches are generally destinations you travel to, if you use an out of network ATM you pay to access your money, interest rates are not always competitive with large banks and service is, well I am getting ahead of myself. You may be thinking that the aforementioned reasons provide a good case for plunking your money into a big bank. Surprisingly, many people prefer to bank with a local community bank in spite of limited locations and ATM’s, lower rates on deposits and higher rates on loans. Why? Service! As big banks have grown into organizational behemoths their management teams have become further removed from their day to day operations. Understandable, they have multi-billion dollar corporations to administer and operate. They really don’t have time to listen to a customer’s needs when they have millions of customers. There is nothing inherently wrong with that model born of necessity. Community bankers, on the other hand, are grounded in their local communities; living and working locally and striving for a better quality of life in their communities for all. From tellers to executive management, most are accessible to every customer. This tends to make the banking experience much more personal. Bank employees know your name and they tend to have much longer tenure compared to employee churn at big banks, here today and gone tomorrow. You can test this theory out at your bank; ask a teller if you can directly contact the CEO, President, Chief Operating Officer or Chief Financial Officer. That just isn’t feasible in a big bank, where officers have too much to do to speak with one customer. It’s not just access either, it’s getting to know you and your banking needs so that the solutions offered are appropriate for you and not sold just to by a banker who has a sales quota. Do big bank CEO’s know the challenges you as a consumer or a business owner face every day? Pretty tough when you make more in one year than many of your customers make in a 15 years. Additionally, and this is key, when there is a problem, (yes, it happens wherever people work together) a solution can involve any of the above mentioned officers in a community bank. It doesn’t frequently escalate that far but when it does, don’t you really want to speak with the owner? And doesn’t the owner really want to know about problems that may be affecting customers? Think about the days when you had a neighborhood hardware store or pharmacy. You could talk with the owner and his/her employees who were knowledgeable and pleasant. If you had a problem, they would take care of it quickly. That owner knew how important your business was to his/her success. The funny thing is, I hear lots of folks complain about their banks, but when asked why they don’t just move to a better bank, the common response is, “…too much of a hassle.” It may appear that way, but when you explore your options you’ll find your new bank can help you make the process of changing banks seamless. Ultimately, it’s your choice and your money.
December 2, 2013