I had never given much thought to where I did my banking before I became a business owner. I banked with Wells Fargo because they had my home loan and gave me a better rate if I opened up an account with them. But, I dreaded having to ask for anything out of the ordinary because my bank balance wasn’t big enough to warrant any kind of special service or entre’ into their private banking group, so I was left to deal with bank tellers who didn’t care very much about me or what I needed.
It was a typical big bank experience. [Side note: Wells Fargo private banking is a whole different ball of wax; if you qualify for it or their trustee services, you will experience excellent service and care like the kind I'm recommending you find for your family and your business].
I stuck with it because I didn’t know there were any other options or that I could find a bank that would truly care about me and my needs.
What kind of needs, you ask?
Well, for one thing, I was so busy when I first launched my law firm that I found it difficult to get to the bank to make deposits on a timely basis. I’d have checks from clients stacking up in my office until finally, I’d find the 30 minutes to make a bank run.
I tried banking by mail, but when one of my deposits got lost in the mail and I had to go back to the client’s and ask them to re-issue their check, that was the end of that.
Also, I wanted to find a bank that would allow me to set up ACH debit, which means that with pre-authorization from our clients who are on payment plans, we can automatically debit their bank account each month for their payments. None of the big banks would even talk to me about it.
Thankfully, I came across Beach Business Bank, a small bank that was just launching in my area and I figured I’d give them a call to see whether they might be able to help. That call turned out to be one of the best calls I ever made.
First of all, they were able to set up the ACH debit program I wanted and they were willing to send a courier to my office to pick up checks, knowing that within some time they’d have a machine they could install in my office so we could scan our checks. We’ve got that now and it’s super cool! No more bank runs, ever!
But really, that was just the beginning. Bob Franko is the Beach Business Bank CEO and he’s taken a personal interest in my business, helping me to get small business financing for expansion and he pushed through a quick loan a year ago when my business expanded much more quickly than I anticipated and needed money to pay a huge, unexpected income tax bill.
If I had not had a relationship with my banker, I don’t know what I would have done during a very scary time!
For those of you not in business, a great banking relationship can be critical when you want to get quick money to a kid in college or overseas. A personal banking relationship can make getting your assets into your trust much easier than working with an inexperienced, uncaring bank teller. And, in the event of your incapacity or even death, I can assure you that a personal banking relationship will make life much easier for your family!
So, what do you look for and how do you find a personal banking relationship?
1. Start small - investigate the community or business banks in your area. [One note: if you are banking with a small bank, you want to be particularly aware of the FDIC limits, which insure your deposits if the bank goes bust. You can find out how to increase your FDIC limits above the regular $100,000 per account here]
2. Develop a relationship - go into the branch and meet the relationship manager to determine whether you will feel well taken care of when you call with an emergency that only he or she can handle.
3. Request electronic communication - find out whether they will let you handle banking requests by email or if you must come into the branch. That’s a deal killer for me - if I can’t send an email to get something done, forget it.
4. Find out about ATM charges - one of the things I love about Beach Business is that they reimburse all my foreign ATM fees, so I can use my ATM card anywhere and not worry about it.
5. Electronic Banking - make sure they can tie multiple accounts together with one internet login and that you can handle bill payments online.
6. Minimums and interest rates - of course, find out the minimum you have to keep in the bank before incurring fees and make sure you can have interest on your checking account, not just your savings.
If you invest just a little time and follow these 6 guidelines, you can be thrilled with your banking relationship.
© 2008 Alexis Martin Neely
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include everything in quotes with it: “Written by Alexis Martin Neely, mom, writer, speaker and Personal Family Lawyer. Alexis makes it super easy for your family to talk about and plan for sticky subjects like money, death and taxes. Get Alexis’ humorous, enlightening, and often quite revealing “Wealth Secrets” at: www.FamilyWealthMatters.com.”