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Are banks “nice?” People say things like: “Oh, they  are so nice.” (“They” meaning, I guess, the tellers and multiple vice-presidents, loan officers and customer service folks.) But is the bank, itself, nice?

The people at the bank may be nice. It is doubtful that the bank is nice. Aside from Citizens United (the Supremes’ contention that corporations are people and may create super-PACs), banks are businesses

A customer of mine recently lost her letter-of-credit (LOC) from her beloved bank of many years. It took only one typical corporate letter from the bank to her to make her upset. Despite the fact that she had sizeable accounts, the bank somehow didn’t realize its typical uncaring, unfeeling, corporate-speak letter would make her angry. The reason she lost the LOC was because she changed her status from employed to retired, although the bank was a few years late in recognizing the fact.  

There was no real connection between the bank and customer, only the good vibes from customer to bank. The good vibes from the customer are not so good today as they were last week, before she got the letter. Now she is considering a mortgage refi and leaving the bank.   

In a sense, our clearing firms and broker-dealers are banks. Therefore, it is important to review and monitor communications among clearing firms, broker-dealers and customers. Sometimes when you know a corporate-speak letter is going to upset customers, it’s a good idea to write and add your own e-mail or snail-mail letter, one designed to take the sting away from the corporate-speak version. 

Speaking of banks, I was trying to figure out why they were so willing to send $17 to my barber at no charge every time I get a haircut. (I simply press a few keys on my iPhone, and he’s paid five days later. If you’re wondering why my haircut is cheap, it’s because I don’t have much hair.) Then I figured out that the bank also sent lots of checks electronically. While the barber may represent one snail-mail check, sent for 45 cents, the utility company, insurance companies, municipality and phone and Internet companies all represent electronic checks. Can you imagine the float on all those electronic checks?  If the bank knows it has to deliver a check to the electric company in five days, it knows it has the float for that period of time, and there’s no expense. No wonder the bank will spend 45 cents for me. And that one check is probably mailed, due bulk rates, more cheaply than 45 cents, right?    

Banks may not be nice; however, banks being smart may be a different story.  

Have a great week and guard your customers well.  

 

For more from Richard Hoe, see:

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