How to Choose the Best Bank for Your Needs
By Ron Strand-Sorrell
Whether you’re looking to open a personal or business bank account (or both), you have many options from which to choose. On any given day, your mailbox may be stuffed with promotional offers from big banks, community banks and credit unions.
So, how do you choose the one that will best meet your needs? Here are a few elements to consider:
Of course, the first step is making sure the bank is a secure home for your money. Look at rating services such as BauerFinancial and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation website to verify the bank is well capitalized and in good regulatory standing.
Then, review the bank’s website to get an understanding of its product mix, rates of return and tools such as mobile banking. With those basics covered, you can have a productive conversation with your prospective banker.
Many banks offer similar lines of products and services. But these offerings are only part of what makes a successful banking relationship. That’s because your bank should be more than a place to park your money – it should offer you the tools and experts to help you meet financial goals.
We often ask prospective customers, “Who’s your banker?” If they can’t come up with a name, that’s a sign they may not have a personal connection at their current bank.
Community banks such as Axiom Bank take pride in establishing a one-on-one relationship with every customer. We want to know what stage of life they’re in – are they building an emergency fund, preparing for retirement, saving to put their kids through college, or seeking to buy a bigger home? It’s only by talking with them that we can understand their needs and earn their trust.
Bottom line? Seek out a bank where you’ll be treated as more than just an account number.
Financial concerns are a source of stress for many customers, and they want reassurance that they can find answers quickly. Here again, you should have a go-to banking expert who’s readily available.
Your bank should be responsive, regardless of the channel – whether you’re visiting the local branch or sending a message on social media. If you must dial a 1-800 number and endure a lengthy hold every time you have a question, consider whether your bank is doing enough to meet your needs.
Many customers want a financial partner that cares about the community. And often, that starts with having roots in the local area. As a Maitland-based community bank, Axiom Bank has served customers in Central Florida since 1963. Our decision-makers live here. We invest in an array of nonprofits that improve our region. And at our Winter Garden branch, we offer free meeting space for small businesses and nonprofits.
When considering your options, look at each bank’s charitable commitments – not only its grant-making, but also employee volunteerism. If you see a cause you care about, it’s a sign that you and the bank may share similar values.
If you own a business, you’ll have another set of considerations. Finding a bank that will champion your entrepreneurial goals should be a primary factor in the decision.
Look for a bank that offers a suite of solutions, such as treasury management, savings and checking accounts with low or minimal fees, and mobile tools that help you operate efficiently. Ask your would-be banker how their products and services will save you money and simplify your life.
And if you need a commercial loan, seek a bank that holds Preferred Lender status with the Small Business Administration. That designation means the bank has a streamlined approval timeline for your application.
Bringing It All Together
Choosing a bank is a personal decision, and it’s perfectly fine to take your time evaluating options. Determining whether the bank’s products match your needs, building a rapport with your banker, and observing the staff’s interactions with other customers will all be helpful indicators in the process.
The right bank should make your life easier – and your financial goals more attainable. And that’s the reward that makes all your research worthwhile.
Ron Strand-Sorrell is an Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer at Axiom Bank, N.A., a Maitland-based community bank with 24 branches, 22 of which are inside select Walmart Supercenters®. For more information about Axiom Bank, visit www.axiombanking.com.