Deciding where to bank is a big decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether you’re looking for personal banking solutions or financing and support for your small business venture, it’s important to do your due diligence before opening an account or applying for a loan.  Big banks may dominate the financial landscape, with many locations and advertisements, but they’re not the only options. In fact, choosing a smaller, independent-minded, community bank has its fair share of benefits. Here’s why you should consider making the switch from a large bank to a smaller one.

Full menu of products and services

While it’s easy to think that big banks have the upper hand when it comes to services, perks, and customer amenities, this isn’t actually the case. Community banks provide the same variety of services as larger banks, including personal and business checking accounts, small business and commercial lending, mortgage loans, and more. In today’s interconnected world, community banks also offer modern necessities such as mobile banking, mobile check deposit, and online bill pay. Whether at home or on the go, you can bank however you need to. And, you can do so with fees that are typically lower than what you’d find at a large bank.

Investing in the local economy

Independent banks largely invest in the local community through both individuals and small businesses. This helps create jobs and opportunities alike. Since they are nationally or internationally focused, larger banks don’t have as much of a focus on the communities they serve. It’s no secret that larger banks often dedicate large portions of their resources to speculative trading and other Wall Street activities, while smaller banks focus more on putting their assets back into the community. Rather than serving large corporate interests, the money invested in local banks makes the community stronger.

Ethics, honesty, and transparency

As a customer, you should have the utmost faith in your bank when it comes to protecting your assets and your personal information. However, big banks sometimes take advantage of this trust in highly-publicized scandals that leave customers feeling swindled. In contrast, community banks have a vested interest in the people they represent. After all, a community bank cannot succeed unless the community surrounding it succeeds. This locally focused mindset allows community banks to prioritize honesty, ethics, and transparency over national profits.

Stability

While big banks may consolidate, close branch locations, or dissolve altogether, smaller banks often have the advantage when it comes to stability. Independent community banks are heavily invested in the local economy, and often serve their communities for many generations. In fact, Bank 34 was named to reflect our years of stability and experience. From 1934 until the present day, we’ve evolved in order to serve the diverse and varied needs of our customers.

Personalized support

Instead of being relegated to endless automated answering systems, faceless online chats, and impersonal service at branch locations, local banks provide good old fashioned personalized service. With a smaller number of customers to service, local banks have the opportunity to build stronger client relationships. These stronger relationships help customers get the service they need without jumping through hoops or wading through red tape. Instead of faceless corporations deciding what’s best when it comes to banking solutions, you’ll deal directly with a bank that is willing to work with you in order to develop a personalized, individual outcome.

Support for small businesses

Many small business owners rely on strong relationships with community banks to get their business off the ground, and to keep things running smoothly. Because national banks have pre-programmed lending requirements, your business financing options could come down to a computer’s algorithm instead of a person’s decision. Independent banks are able to offer more flexibility when it comes to credit solutions, in order to fit your unique business needs.

For an example of just how vital the relationship between independent community banks and small business owners truly is, look no further than the economic relief efforts established during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses in all sectors applied for funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the Small Business Administration (SBA) beginning in April of 2020. In the first round of PPP funding, the SBA reported that over 60% of loans were issued by banks with less than $10 billion in assets. Smaller banks had an advantage over larger ones when it came to helping business owners with applications and offering personalized support to help them navigate every step of the process. It’s another example of how important community banks are when it comes to helping small businesses survive.

Questions to ask before choosing a bank

There’s no shame in “shopping around” and looking into several banks before you find one that’s a good fit for your needs. Whether big or small, make sure you ask the right questions before deciding on a bank. These include:

  • What is the minimum deposit to open an account?
  • Do they offer a no monthly service fee checking account?
  • What are the account requirements?
  • Are they part of an ATM nationwide surcharge-free network?
  • Do they offer checking accounts with rewards?
  • How is their online presence? Do they offer digital tools like online banking and mobile check deposit?
  • How is the customer service? Do they have computer answering and directing calls or does real staff answer?

Most of this information can be found online, but it’s also recommended to visit a branch in person to get a real sense of the bank itself. If you find that you prefer personalized, hands-on service, you’ll likely be best served at a community bank that can dedicate the time and attention to your individual financial needs.

Bank 34: Standing independent since 1934

If you’re interested in learning what a local, independent bank can offer you, look no further than Bank 34.  In a world of large banks, we’ve stood independent since 1934, and remained committed to serving our local communities at every stage of the journey. We’re prepared to help tailor financial solutions for you, your family, and your business. No matter where you are in your banking journey, we’re here to help. Find your nearest location to open an account today or contact us online.

 

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