Choosing a bank, especially if you live in a large global city, means evaluating a continually growing list of options. There are also multiple ways of thinking about and understanding a bank and what it does.
A bank is a place that stores your money, a place that invests your money, a place that loans you money, and a place that provides you with investment opportunities.
With that in mind, below are some tips for choosing the bank that makes the most sense for your needs and values.
Examine Their Values
It can be easy to look at all banks as part of a megalithic entity, whose values, interests, ethics, and goals are all the same: to make as much money as possible for its clients and shareholders. While this is true to a certain extent, there are important nuances and distinctions to consider.
Banks vary across a spectrum on all of these metrics, and knowing how a bank’s values align with your own is a good way to narrow down your list of options.
For instance, some like to portray themselves as sustainable banks that, despite being for-profit enterprises, try to maximize the amount of good they do in the world. They do this by structuring their investments, lending practices, and corporate social responsibility to facilitate the facade.
If you consider yourself a socially and environmentally conscious investor and citizen, what your bank does with your money should influence much of your decision.
How Do They Treat Their Customers?
If you do business with multiple banks, it is unlikely you would rate them exactly the same on how they have treated you. When shopping around for a new bank, it is a good idea to consider what current and past customers have to say about how they feel they have been treated.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Does the bank respond quickly when you have an issue?
- Is it easy to contact a customer service representative, or are you given the run around with artificial intelligence that is not always helpful?
- Does your bank have unfair or predatory terms and conditions in their contracts?
- Will they gladly swindle you out of a few dollars at every turn when the letter of the law dictates they can, or are they willing to be fair and flexible with you?
- Are investment and account advisors pushy and obnoxious, constantly trying to upsell, or are they willing to let you take your time when making decisions?
- Do they appear to have your comfort and best interests at heart?
What Is Their Corporate Culture Like?
An organization’s corporate culture might seem like an afterthought to someone who has never worked for or done business with a large company, but it lies at the heart of everything they do and often how successful they are.
There are countless stories of banks being heavily impacted by a toxic corporate culture that usually starts at the leadership level. This can result in much more than just a PR nightmare and a loss of goodwill.
If you are choosing a bank to deposit your funds, borrow money, and potentially build a long-term relationship with an investment advisor to help you manage your capital, consider how the bank’s culture incentivizes certain behavior attitudes towards you as a customer.
This is information you can find online by reading relevant media and news stories and reviews on Glassdoor from current and former employees.
Choosing the right bank should involve more than just going with the one your family has always banked with. Evaluating a bank means looking at how and where they invest their money, how they view and treat their customers, and what kinds of incentives they offer.
Also, each bank employs a different management philosophy that informs how they act and what they are willing to do to make money.