How to Select and Work with a Banker Part 4
Knowing how to select and work with a banker to maximize your financial success is an important objective which we see people fail to achieve on a regular basis. To help people understand how to navigate this process, I asked a group of private bankers to share their thoughts about what people should know about banking.
In the first three parts of this four-part series, I am sharing the responses I feel will be of greatest benefit to most people. In Part 4, I offer my own comments on the bankers’ points and what anyone shopping for or using a banker should consider.
This question-and-answer series was a fun exercise that I look forward to doing with other types of professionals in the future. I got a lot of insight from the private bankers and hope that it helped you, as well.
Reading through the answers, I found a few common themes I’d like to share my thoughts on.
1. Too many people take their bank/bankers’ ability to impact their future for granted. Far more of us should have someone at our bank who knows who we are.
The overwhelming majority of people who come in for an introductory consultation with us don’t know the name of a single person at their bank. I see this as a sad byproduct of the technological revolution that has benefited us in so many other ways. Because we can login to our accounts to check our balances, deposit checks remotely, pay our bills on line, and get cash from ATMs on every corner, many of us are unaware of what a banker can do for us.
Banks make money by using your money, lending you money, and charging penalties when you don’t follow their rules. Most banks model is to make their profits on one of the first two. They want a reliable customer with good financial behavior. They understand that we make mistakes and sometimes need flexibility in their rules and products.
When you open an account with an actual person and then remember to speak with them when you stop by the branch, you create a relationship that makes them want to help you when you need it. I really liked Jeremy’s point that “your banker” can be someone without a fancy title in a branch (although let’s be honest they give 95% of employees at a bank have a fancy title).
Every bank will waive an error made by a client that has done everything right for 5 years but sometimes you need something a little more. Don’t let yourself be a number.
2. When selecting a bank, we should be discerning enough to look at more than the location of a particular branch or who has the commercial image we like.
Most of the time when I ask a banker about their value, they are quick to tell me that you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on pricing over service. Rates aren’t everything -- I get that -- but they are an important factor. I have seen that come true many times for clients who had something go wrong right before closing or get fees that never seem to end once they have signed on the dotted line. At the same time, what appears to be a relatively small pricing difference can ending up being a substantial difference over time.
If price on a one-time product is all you are looking for, then online banks and credit unions can be a great resource. Because of their non-profit mandate, credit union rates on small consumer products (car loans, credit cards, and CDs) can have a real competitive advantage, but many credit unions don’t handle larger or more commercial-oriented loans. The credit union can also provide you with a relationship similar to the banker in the branch.
3. The world -- and particularly Birmingham -- has been impacted over the last decade by the merging and changing bank industry. Don’t expect this to stop in the near future.
Bank acquisitions and mergers affect both the employees and the clients. I agree with our respondents that changes aren’t going away any time soon. As a consumer, you should reevaluate your banking relationship every few years, particularly if your bank is going through changes. The service you get and the rates they provide are based on their culture. Having a local voice in your corner is important, and you need to know if that local voice loses any influence.
In closing, I want to note that it can be very difficult for employees in the financial industry to get clearance to participate in something like this from their compliance officers. Some of the bankers we reached out to were not given the green light, but I want to sincerely thank those who were allowed to respond and took the time to do so.
I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Please reach out to us or any of the bankers that helped us if you have additional questions.