Community Banking Choices

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Community Banking - Consumer Choices

Customers choose community banks for a mixture of practical and emotional reasons that include more beneficial fee structures and rates, the fact that money is kept locally, the support they provide to small businesses, their local knowledge, and strong personal relationships. When customers are considering a switch to move or join a particular community bank, they visit the bank to get a better sense of whether the bank would be a good fit for their emotional and banking needs as described above.

Fee Structure & Rates

One of the reasons consumers choose community banks is because they provide a fee structure that is more favorable to customers.
  • According to a survey by Pew Charitable Trusts, community banks are more likely to have fewer checking account fees compared to national banks and lower overdraft fees.
  • Only 10% of community banks charge a checking account fee while this is a standard for national banks.
  • Some community banks offer a free checking account to all customers while others waive fees if customers agree to receive only electronic bank statements.
  • The median overdraft fee for small community banks is $32 compared to $35 for large national banks.
  • Community bank customers applaud the fact that community banks have lower and fewer fees.
  • On average, community banks also provide more competitive interest rates on loans and savings accounts compared to national banks.

Keeping it local

The chance to keep their money local by banking in a community banks is an emotional reason some customers choose community banks. The consumer decision to switch to community banks is rooted in both practicality and idealism.
  • One consumer who switched to a community bank because she disagreed with some corporate investments of her previous national bank said "I feel like my voice matters more in a smaller bank".
  • Community banks are solely focused on turning deposits into investments and loans within their community. Therefore, customers derive a sense of satisfaction knowing they are helping to meet needs within their community.
  • Community banks are more likely to be involved in development projects or support that benefit the community.
  • About 20% of the counties in the United States only have a community bank.

Small business support

Consumers who are small businesses choose community banks because of the ease of accessing loans compared to national banks. Also, community banks provide personalized support that greatly impacts small businesses.
  • According to a 2015 Harvard Kennedy School report, more than 50% of small business loans come from community banks and 77% of agricultural loans.
  • In rural areas of the United States, 82% of all agricultural loans come from community banks.
  • Additionally, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 76% of small businesses were more likely to be approved for a loan from a community bank compared to 58% for national banks.
  • Small and mid-level banks account for 25% of all bank assets in the United States while they account for more than 50% of small business lending.
  • Comparatively, the largest 20 national banks account for 57% of all banks assets in the United States, however, they account for only 18% of small business lending.
  • Community bankers provide valuable networking contacts to small business owners. Bankers often help their customers connect with local suppliers, customers and businesses.
  • Community Bank NA details how strong relationships between one small business owner and his loan officer benefited the small business. In the early 2000s, the loan officer suggested that the business owner add flooding insurance coverage which paid off when the business was flooded in 2006 and 2011.
  • According to the business owner in the case study mentioned above "If we hadn’t had the flood insurance Jeff suggested, it would’ve been a huge problem. "There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about that and what it meant to our company. He’s not only making sure we make our payments on time, but he’s looking out for the wellbeing of our entire company. He truly is a partner."

Local knowledge

One of reasons consumers in the United States choose community banks is their local knowledge which makes it easier to work with them.
  • Community banks are accustomed to evaluating risks within the community, therefore, their knowledge of the community plays a role in decision-making.
  • Because of local knowledge, community banks are frequently able to approve loans that national banks would not be able to.
  • Community banks are able to use their local knowledge to customize their products and services to meet the needs of their customers.
  • Based on their local knowledge of loan applicants, community banks factor in the personal character of applicants when making lending decisions.
  • Community banks are themselves small businesses within the community, therefore, they are more likely aware of or are facing the same challenges that small business owners are facing. This makes community banks more understanding.

Strong personal relationships

Another reason why consumers choose community banks is the emotional benefit of being able to form strong, lasting personal relationships with their customers.
  • For lending decisions, there is a focus on the personal knowledge of a loan applicant in community banks.
  • In community banks, it is not uncommon to work with the same person over a long time, which makes it easier to build and maintain lasting personal relationships.
  • Community banks most often know their customers personally. According to one First Community Bank customer "The customer service team at FCB is great. They know me by my first name and always say hello! Great banking at First Community Bank!"
  • Another First Community Bank customer said "My local branch is full of wonderful and super helpful people."
  • It is not uncommon for community bank customers to be offered a cup of coffee when they visit their bank branch.
  • Community banks employees take pride in serving their neighbors and friends. Compared to national banks, community bank employees form deeper relationships with their customers.
  • According to the 2016 American Customer Satisfaction Index Finance and Insurance Report, community banks have the highest customer satisfaction ranking; 83% compared to 77% for national banks.
  • Community banks also scored the highest in staff courtesy and helpfulness (91%) and the speed of financial transactions (88%).
  • Customers are more likely to feel valued at community banks compared to national banks.
  • One Community Bank NA customer was guided and encouraged by her branch manager through steps that enabled her family to get the credit scores they needed to own their own home. The customer found strength in the manager's optimism and guidance even though she had a bad credit rating and outstanding debt when she first discussed home ownership with the manager.
  • According to the customer mentioned above "She knew how bad I wanted a house and everything we went through to do it. She put her own personal feelings into it to help me get through it. We’re never gonna leave Community Bank. They’ll be our bank for the rest of our lives."

Bank Visits/Interviews

When ready to switch to community banks or trying to decide which community bank to use, most customers visit community banks within their vicinity.
  • Bank visits help customers decide if community banking is the best fit for their needs and which one to use.
  • It is not hard for consumers to find community banks within their locality since there are more than 50,000 spread across the United States.
  • Because personal relationships are part of the appeal that community banks offer to customers, they visit community bank branches to decide which one they can build a relationship with. Additionally, these visits help potential customers determine if the bank can meet their banking needs.
  • It is important that community bank officers embody the spirit of their banks so they can appeal to potential customers.

Research Methodology:

In order to provide insights into how and/or why consumers choose community banks, we used a combination of industry and community bank sources. We started our search by looking for the reasons why customers select community banks. This search provided us with multiple sources that we cross-referenced to provide insights that were most commonly mentioned. We also found some relevant case studies and customer testimonials that illustrate the reasons these customers bank with their banks and have been included here. One of the sources included here is dated earlier than Wonder's recommended 2-year time frame. It has been included because of the value of information presented, with its relevance confirmed by other sources we used. Additionally, we checked to ensure that the assets of the two community bank sources used; Community Bank NA and Mid Penn Bank were between $100 million to $5 billion.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Community Banking - Bank Choices

To attract consumers, community banks are using value-adding technologies, efficient process flows, facilities that enhance brands, products that enhance customers' needs, staff that add value to customers, and loyalty programs

Value-Adding Technologies.

  • Building customer relationships is one of community banks'' strategies and the selling point for most of them.
  • Technology is one of the ways through which community banks are retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.
  • According to the American Bankers Association research study, community banks are geared up to embrace technologies that keep them relevant amidst serious threats from larger bank institutions that are more established. FirstCapital Bank of Texas, NA, in Midland, Texas, offers “Popmoney,” a person-to-person payments service launched by Fiserv, which allows customers to make a transfer from their checking account via phone to another individual’s phone, and one can download from his phone to his checking account. Many of FirstCapital customers embraced the new service.
  • Online loan applications, mobile banking, and interactive teller machines are some technologies that community banks are leveraging on to attract more customers.
  • Also, some banks assist clients in finding their ATMs through geolocation as a way of being closer to clients and leveraging mobile power.
  • As a strategy, incorporating personalized features into apps is also a way through which community banks are guaranteeing a customer-centric approach as a value proposition to customers.
  • A CSBC 2018 survey found that close to 90% of community banks offer mobile banking while 40% offer online loan application.

Efficient Process Flow.

  • Process flow is a major factor that influences a customer's choice of banks. Many customers prefer flawless processes that are not only convenient and less time-consuming, but also cost-effective.
  • Community banks are investing in infrastructure that ensures their processes are aligned with consumer needs.
  • For most customers, the lending process ultimate service offering upon which a bank’s effectiveness is measured. The smoother the process, the more the customers get attracted.
  • The Bank of Oak Ridge through its Chief Financial Officer Tom Wayne, with the help of other people in the bank, installed a system that helped in mapping the commercial lending process, identifying areas of improvement and subsequently addressing them from the customers’ perspective. The strategy helped the bank to maintain its clientele and attracted more customers.
  • In a bid to attract more customers, the Bank of Missouri partnered with its core technology provider Jack Henry Banking, to transform its internal processes with a workflow solution to eliminate redundancies and streamline systems.
  • According to ABA’s research study, 77% of respondents believe that automation facilitates and contributes to streamlined lending processes.

Facilities that Enhance brands

  • Ease of navigation of facilities and outward appearance of banks are important facilities’ design elements that inform customers’ decisions to choose specific community banks.
  • Customer friendly facilities ignite particular emotions in customers especially with beautifully crafted finishing that align with institutions’ image, and that externally communicate messages that customers resonate with.
  • Community banks are keen on designs that make customers excited to go to their facilities and cues that are aligned with their value proposition. They major on the ‘look and feel’ strategy to attract customers.
  • According to an article, one community bank designed its building in such a way that allowed a no charge coin counting machine to be visible from across the stress. Additionally, the layout of the bank was welcoming to potential customers to use the device and then enter the bank to know more about the bank’s service offerings.

Products that reflect customer’s needs

  • Customers have needs and concerns that community banks target through their products and service offerings. As a differentiating factor among players, successful community banks strive to understand customers’ needs (through market research and feedback) and consequently craft their products and services in ways that uniquely meet these needs.
  • They do so with consideration of the fact that customers become enthusiastic when they feel treated well, and their needs met uniquely.
  • For instance, North Easton Savings bank utilized customer insights to introduce a CD product, in response to customers’ health concerns and their desire to have access to money to address their health needs. Customers were happy and more customers were attracted to the bank following the introduction of the product.
  • Community banks attract customers by taking stock of what matters to the customers and utilizing the same insights to drive products and services.
  • The Community Bank of Louisiana provides the EMV payment method to customers. The bank came up with the idea upon determination that many customers they were concerned about the security their cards (about cases of fraud) and also wanted options that could allow them a wide range of services (such as online transactions).

Staff that add value to customers.

  • Recent trends show a significant decrease in traffic to community branches as many customers opt for mobile devices and home computers.
  • Many community banks have stepped in to grab the opportunity by cutting customer facing tellers and having the same employees as customer service representatives (CSR’s) who can attend to customers more effectively, engaging them in more in-depth discussions about their banking needs.
  • By shifting the interaction from a process (as with tellers) to a discussion (as with CSRs), identification of customers’ needs is more effective as the CSRs can probe more to understand the clients better. Additionally, with the representatives, customers can discuss possible alternative revenues streams for their accounts and also get help with financial planning.
  • Community banks take advantage of the strategy to ensure better service and experience for their customers. Having staff who add value enhances customer and employee satisfaction and considerable cost cuttings for the bank.
  • As an additional measure, community banks are training their staff to ensure excellent service delivery to customers. According to the ABA research study, 95% of community bank are training their staff to fight fraud.

Loyalty Programs

  • According to a research study by the American Bankers Association in 2018, 75% of community banks in the US offer loyalty programs with 25% were planning to have the same in 2018. 17% said that they use loyalty programs for customer engagement.
  • Loyalty programs allow community banks to reward their customers in a manner that ensure that they are satisfied and retained as customers.
  • The banks also attract more customers from referrals by existing satisfied customers.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To get the required information, we scoured through industry publications like CNBC and research studies such as by American Banking Association to get insights into how community banks attract consumers. In researching, we only focused on community banks (with $100M to $5B in assets) found in the US. To corroborate our findings, we included statistics from recent survey conducted in the sector. We also provided examples of community banks that have employed various strategies to attract consumers.

Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "Sarah Gillis switched from a national bank to a local one in New Jersey as a matter of principle. “I feel like my voice matters more in a smaller bank,” says Gillis, who closed her account at a national bank because she disagreed, she says, with some of its corporate investments. She opened an account at Peapack-Gladstone Bank by her home in Warren, New Jersey, about a year ago."
  • "But when asked her thoughts on her new bank, it’s the perks and lack of fees she applauds. Her out-of-network ATM fees are reimbursed by Peapack-Gladstone and she gets $8 back if she uses her debit card at least 10 times a month. “I just think it’s a great bank,” she says."
  • "Fans of community banks point to the advantages, starting with a generally more favorable fee structure. These banks are likelier to have fewer checking account fees and lower overdraft fees than big national banks, according to a recent survey by Pew Charitable Trusts. Only about 10 percent of small banks surveyed reported charging monthly service fees on checking accounts; such fees are common at large banks, though they can sometimes be avoided by signing up for direct deposit or maintaining a minimum balance. "
  • "The median overdraft fee for small banks was $32, compared to $35 for large banks."
  • "And for many, the chance to keep money local is a reward in itself. “People feel that there is an authenticity to a locally owned business,” says Terry Jorde, senior executive vice president at the Independent Community Bankers of America. “That’s true whether it’s a hardware store, a locally owned restaurant, a flower store or a community bank.”"
  • "Community banks can also play an integral role in local economies, especially in supporting small businesses. More than 50 percent of small-business loans came from community banks, researchers at Harvard Kennedy School reported in 2015, as did 77 percent of agricultural loans. Small businesses were also more likely to be approved for some form of a loan from community banks — 76 percent, compared to 58 percent at national banks, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York."
  • "That seems to be reflected in lower default rates for community bank loans. The Harvard Kennedy study also found that default rates for residential property loans were under 4 percent for community banks, compared to more than 10 percent for big banks."
Quotes
  • "Community banks and local credit unions are an excellent option for most banking needs. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they can’t meet your needs. Some institutions limit their offerings, others outsource services, and some provide everything you need in-house."
  • "Local banks are often a good bet for free checking accounts—the account you probably need most. Some offer standard free checking to everybody, while others waive fees if you just agree to receive electronic statements. They also compete with attractive rates on savings accounts and loans. Savings rates might still be higher at online banks, but there’s nothing to prevent you from having multiple accounts (online and local)."
  • "Because they’re engaged in local matters, local banks may be easier to work with. That’s particularly true if you need to borrow money. For example, megabanks might be unwilling to fund your local business, investment property, or agriculture loan, but local banks are accustomed to evaluating loans in your area."
  • "For better or worse, local banks typically provide more personal service than big banks. It’s not uncommon to work with the same person over time. Bank staff can even learn about your needs and suggest bank products that may be helpful. "
  • " You develop relationships, and you know what to expect and who to talk to when you have questions. At the same time, you lose the anonymity that comes with being a big bank customer. If you live in a particularly small town, you may prefer to keep a low profile."
  • "Your banking needs drive your choice of banks, but you may feel a sense of satisfaction when working with a local institution. Local banks and credit unions are part of the local economy, and they often give back. You’re likely to see a local institution’s logo at charity races and other events, signaling that they contributed money or other resources to help make the event a reality."
Quotes
  • "The customer service team at FCB is great. They know me by my first name and always say hello! Great banking at First Community Bank! Robin W. "
  • "My local branch is full of wonderful and super helpful people. Jean O."
Quotes
  • "When you have a strong relationship with someone, the door is wide open for honest dialogue. And instead of skepticism, honesty can be met with trust."
  • "That combination paid off big for John Huff, co-owner of Huff Ice Cream, a family-owned distributor of a wide variety of food products in Sidney, NY, when he leaned on his strong relationship with Jeff Lord—a commercial loan officer at Community Bank, N.A. The two met in 1995 and quickly formed a mutual respect for the work each puts in every day."
  • "“Relationships are very important to us,” John said. “Jeff is the epitome of having a great professional relationship. It doesn’t happen often that you find someone with such similar personality and mindset, values, feelings about work, priorities. We line up.”"
  • "In the early 2000s, Jeff was visiting John’s operation for an annual review when, during a routine walk-through of the property, he asked John if he’d ever considered flood insurance. By this time, Huff Ice Cream had been in business for more than 50 years. He’d never had flood insurance, never wished he’d had it because he’d never seen the need, and even his insurance guy had never suggested it."
  • "Still, John trusted that Jeff was looking out for his best interests—nothing more and nothing less—and added the coverage. It was this coverage that ended up preventing losses of over $1 million when floods struck his operation in 2006 and again in 2011."
  • "“If we hadn’t had the flood insurance Jeff suggested, it would’ve been a huge problem,” John said. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t think about that and what it meant to our company. He’s not only making sure we make our payments on time, but he’s looking out for the wellbeing of our entire company. He truly is a partner.”"
  • "Both John and Jeff are good at what they do, and that’s important to success. But it’s their strong relationship that makes working together work. And John says he sees that commitment from others at Community Bank, too."
Quotes
  • "Together for 21 years (married for 19) with five children and 11 grandchildren, they relish the holiday get-togethers and family celebrations that bring them all to the same room. But with more people over the years, the room started to feel smaller and smaller."
  • "The two had rented that home for nine years and, in fact, had never owned their own home. In 2016, when Shawn reached her breaking point and said they needed to move, Bill said they weren’t going anywhere unless they were becoming homeowners. The two were determined to make it happen. They just didn’t know how."
  • "“We had no clue. I had some marks on my credit history and my husband had no credit, and we had debt we had to get under control. And that’s when we talked to Kelly.”"
  • "Kelly Smith, a Branch Manager at Community Bank in Penn Yan, NY, met Shawn years ago when the two worked at a department store. Kelly wanted to help the Whitings get the home of their dreams, so she outlined the steps to get there."
  • "It wasn’t quick or easy, and Shawn confessed there were times she didn’t think they’d make it. But she found strength in Kelly’s optimism and guidance. They worked on their credit and cut back on things they could do without in order to save for a down payment. Before they knew it, it was 2018 and they were ready to try again. Sitting in her office, Kelly ran the reports and, to their surprise, Bill and Shawn now had credit scores strong enough to buy their first house."
  • "“The Whitings are the perfect example of why we do what we do,” Kelly said. “The joy and excitement that I witnessed and experienced with them will remain with me for years to come.” That joy overflowed the day the house was officially theirs."
  • "“She’s just very down to earth, very caring, very kind to you,” Shawn said. “She knew how bad I wanted a house and everything we went through to do it. She put her own personal feelings into it to help me get through it.” “We’re never gonna leave Community Bank. They’ll be our bank for the rest of our lives.”"
Quotes
  • "Most locally owned banks offer the same array of services, from online bill paying to debit and credit cards, at much lower cost than big banks. Average fees at small banks tend to be substantially lower than at big banks, according to national data. Studies show that small financial institutions also offer, on average, better interest rates on savings and better terms on credit cards and other loans."
  • "Small businesses, which create the majority of new jobs, depend heavily on small, local banks for financing. Although small and mid-sized banks control less than one-quarter of all bank assets, they account for more than half of all small business lending."
  • "Big banks, meanwhile, allocate relatively little of their resources to small businesses. These twenty banks now control 57% of all bank assets but devote only 18% percent of their time to small business commercial loan portfolios."
  • "At local banks, loan approvals and other critical decisions are made locally by people who live in the community, have face-to-face relationships with their customers, and understand local needs. Because of this personal knowledge, local financial institutions are often able to approve small business and other loans that big banks would not."
  • "The primary activity of almost most community banks is to turn deposits into loans and other productive investments. Meanwhile, big banks devote a sizeable share of their resources to speculative trading and other Wall Street initiatives that typically generate big profits for the bank, but provide little economic or social value for our local economy."
  • "The health of local banks impacts the health of our communities. This is why local banks are involved in their communities. Big banks, in contrast, are not as connected to the places where they operate. Larger banks use a community’s deposits to make investments in other regions or on Wall Street."
Quotes
  • "Local banks and credit unions offer more free accounts and charge fewer fees. According to Money-Rates.com, 43 percent of small banks’ checking accounts had no monthly maintenance fees compared to only 25 percent at large banks. Overdraft fees and ATM fees continue to rise in the megabank world as well. JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have each reported making nearly $2 billion a year in overdraft charges."
  • "It’s not unusual for a customer to be offered a cookie or cup of coffee when entering their local community bank branch. Local banks value each of their customers as individuals, often greeting them by name and asking about their families and lives. Local banks pride themselves on serving their neighbors and take the time to give customers the attention they need."
  • "Megabank advertising suggests they have the upper-hand when it comes to choice, but that simply isn’t true. Most community banks offer the same services and products as their competitors, including online and mobile banking. Many local financial institutions also offer unique programs tailored to the needs of their local customer base."
  • "Smaller banks tend to have less employee turnover than larger institutions. Employees at community banks form deeper relationships with their customers, leading to higher quality service and flexible decision making."
  • "As a member of the community, local banks and credit unions are held to a higher standard than national chains. They know that the policies of their bank and the behavior of their employees has a direct effect on the local community. Unlike megabanks that use their assets to invest in national and international industries, most community banks invest in small, local businesses."
  • "According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, despite the huge number of megabank branches across the country, community banks still provide nearly 50 percent of small business loans. In rural areas, the impact of community banks and credit unions is even greater as they provide 82 percent of national agricultural loans. That’s money directly benefiting your community. "
  • "Not only is your neighborhood bank putting money back into your community with small business loans, but it may also pay your neighbor’s salary. According to the Independent Community Bankers of America, community banks employ over 765,000 Americans. While big banks keep the majority of their upper-level staff working in far-off corporate headquarters, community bank CEOs and other top staff work in main offices located in your community."
  • "Now that you know why local banking is the smartest choice for your family, your business, and your community, the only question left is, “how do I choose?” Community banks and credit unions both make great financial partners. Compared to megabanks, local institutions offer lower fees, more free accounts, relationship-based banking, and personalized products and services. When you’re ready to make the switch to a local bank, you’ll want to visit the credit unions and community banks in your neighborhood."
  • "Your money is protected at both institutions with insurance of $250,000 per account. Both local banks and credit unions have your community’s best interests at heart."
Quotes
  • "Big banks have more assets than local banks, but they don’t have a lock on the largest number of customers. Community banks are responsible for more than half of all small business loans in the U.S. They also make more than 80 percent of all agricultural loans."
  • "Depending on where you live, a community bank might be your only option when it comes to financial institutions. About 20 percent of counties in the U.S. only have a community bank. In more than 600 counties across the country, there are no big bank branches."
  • "Community banks tend to provide better customer service compared to big, national banks. The American Customer Satisfaction Index Finance and Insurance Report for 2016 revealed that community banks had the highest ranking when it came to customer satisfaction, at 83 percent. National banks had the lowest levels of customer satisfaction, at 77 percent."
  • "The report found that people were more likely to rank community banks higher in several areas. For example, community banks scored the highest in categories for teller or staff courtesy and helpfulness, with a 91, and speed of financial transaction, with an 88. Customers also gave community banks scores that exceeded 80 in categories like website satisfaction, call center satisfaction and ease of adding or changing accounts."
  • "Often, when you work with a community bank, you get the sense that you are part of a family. Any services a local bank offers typically come directly from the bank, rather than being outsourced to an outside company. That means you are more likely to see the same tellers at the bank year after year. If you have a loan officer or an investment officer, you are likely to work with the same person for years on end."
  • "Lower rates of turnover and a more hands-on approach to finances is another advantage of community banks and allow them to form deep, long-lasting relationships with their customers. You’re less likely to feel like an account number and more likely to feel like a valued customer when you bank with a local bank."
  • "Typically, local banks focus on assisting and building up their local community. While a big bank usually prefers to work with large, established businesses and might have policies that favor individuals who can make hefty deposits, a community bank is going to focus its attention on supporting small businesses in its local area. Across the U.S., community banks lent more than $3.5 billion to small businesses in 2010."
  • "Community banks often put the focus on supporting small, local companies and residents because they have close ties to the areas they serve. Community banks are often small businesses themselves, so they understand the challenges many local business owners face — and might have even faced some of the same problems or concerns."
  • "Because their typical customer is usually an average person or a small business, community banks tend to be more flexible when it comes to lending. You may be more likely to get a loan from your local bank, with a better rate and terms, than from a big bank, even if you don’t have excellent credit."
  • "That’s because your local bank is more likely to look at you as an entire person, rather than just a credit score. A community bank might look at your family history or your character, as well as your spending habits when deciding on a loan. You’ll be more likely to get a loan from a bank that’s known you as a person for years than you would from a big bank with little or no connection to you or your community."
Quotes
  • "People who choose community banks often do so because they value that personal relationship, says John T. Brennan, trust officer at Cape Ann Savings Trust and Financial Services in Gloucester, Mass. “A community bank customer should have some individual who embodies their bank.”"
  • "To find that individual, Brennan says customers need to do their homework and interview banks the way they would any other professional. And don’t be afraid to ask for references."
  • "To test a bank’s commitment to local, Lewis advises customers to walk into any branch and ask to meet the management team. “If they’re in some other state, that’s a bad sign,” he says. Lewis also recommends that customers call their bank’s headquarters. If there’s no way to get senior management on the phone, there’s a high likelihood that the bank doesn’t take customer service seriously."