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Online Banks The wave of the future or a major wipeout?

Banking as we know it has evolved in its processes and procedures with the progression of technology, but do you really understand the difference between the new and trendy online banks versus the type of online banking we offer? Is an online bank trustworthy? Do you know where your money is? Those are just a few questions you should ask yourself before you are lured into a banking relationship void of personal service and physical locations.

It is no surprise that banks and financial institutions would venture into the Internet world to pursue customers, but do you really trust a machine to care for you or your money? Sure, folks talk about the convenience of using an online bank, but the impersonal nature and complete dependence on technology is rather unnerving. Plus, the reality is that when you couple your traditional banking experiences with the convenient services of Internet banking and online bill pay using our secure website, you have 24/7 access to your account anyway.

Ally® and ING Direct® are at the forefront of the online bank domain. Since they do not staff physical branches, their hook is to offer attractive interest rates on savings or money market accounts with the money they are saving on staff, maintenance, etc. What happens when you need a loan and need to talk to a banker about your situation? What phone number do you call? How much time do you spend going through a maze of telephone prompts to try to get to a person? If you do find someone, are they actually able to do the loan for you or does your request fall outside of their pre-defined parameters?

When emergency situations arise or out-of-the-box things come up, customers that have a trusting relationship built on long-standing interactions are able to call on their banker to assist with these special, unexpected circumstances. Because of those relationships built with our staff and loan officers, we can work with you to develop something that best meets your needs when you don't fit into the perfect scenario that an online bank would require. Chances are pretty high those using an online bank would not have the same relationship to fall back on.

What if you have questions about your latest deposit, which, incidentally, you had to make at a local ATM? You might spend 10 minutes finding the contact information (phone number or email) of the customer service representative, 10 minutes on hold, and 10 minutes trying to figure out the problem, for a total of half an hour. What does customer service mean to you?

For example, Anna has worked diligently to be someone her customers trust and depend on. When they come in or call, they are greeted with enthusiasm and understanding. Each customer’s situation is unique and Anna does a great job identifying ways to interact with each on the level they are at. What computer or ATM will do that? Without a local branch, any transaction must be made via ATM or online. Every question must be submitted via email or phone call. This lack of physical presence may be troublesome.

In a traditional bank setting such as Better Banks, customers can turn to our customer service representatives, branch managers, officers and even senior management when they need to. I recently overheard one employee make the statement, “People really don’t care about customer service until they need it.” Precisely, and with that in mind, and the demonstration of service provided by Anna, Amanda, Niki, Jackie, Noah, Teresa and all of our employees at Better Banks, I am confident we meet the needs of our customers daily.

Now, don’t get confused because we do offer online banking, yet it is extremely different than using an online bank. With online banking you can view your statement and transactions, transfer funds between accounts and pay bills. You can rest assured your money is safe and secure, ready for you anytime at any Better Banks location and any ATM. The accessibility of your money is not limited to the Internet or at an ATM like with that of an online bank.

When it is all said and done, the wave of online banks will crest and fall much like that of the ocean. It’s great when you are at the top, but no one enjoys the crash. When the water gets rough, I can guarantee you and your finances will be safe and secure at Better Banks — no wipeout in sight! Thank you for your continued trust and for letting us show you a better way to bank.

Steve E. Backlund
Chairman


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