8 Inconvenient Truths About Opening A New Bank Account

Despite all the talk about delivering a great customer experience, most financial institutions stumble out of the starting gates early in the building of a new banking relationship. Don't believe it? Read this first-hand account and see for yourself. If the process sounds familiar, the clock is ticking on your institution's relevance.

I had some idle cash setting in a bank Money Market Account (MMA) earning a paltry 0.25% APY. Always taught to have six months salary “socked away,” the money had been sitting in that account for a few years, earning a horrific yield.

My first thought was to shop some local credit unions. After all, I was told they pay better rates. Best rate I could find, was just over 2.00% with balances over $250,000. But wait, the NCUA insurance only covered $250,000. I did some more digging and found a local bank that paid 2.00% APY and had a minimum balance requirement of only $2,000. Score one for community banks.

One Customer in the Branch, and the Wait Begins

Off to the local bank branch I went, because for whatever reason, the account needed to be opened in person at a local branch. That’s Inconvenience #1.

Upon entering the branch, I noted several empty offices, In another, a young woman was working with a couple. It appeared they were opening an account. I approached the teller counter and saw one teller working the drive-in and one on the phone walking a customer through an online banking password reset. I waited ten minutes for the teller to finish the phone call. Inconvenience #2.

When she ended the call, she cheerfully asked how she could help. I explained I wanted to open a Money Market Account. At this point, I was told the woman in the office behind me would be the only person who could help me open my account so I would need to wait. That was Inconvenience #3.

Fifteen minutes later, or 20 minutes after entering the branch, the woman in the office became free. She asked me why I was there, and explained my desire to open a new account. She began banging away on her keyboard and started printing 12 pages of paperwork. Another ten minutes passed, and I started to wonder if I should have packed a snack and drink. I  had already spent 40 minutes in the branch, and she had yet to even ask for my drivers license.

The paperwork was simply the terms and conditions for the account I wanted to open. I was asked to review the entire document (Inconvenience #4), sign it, and then present my drivers license. Being like most people, I simply scanned the T&C documents for a couple of minutes. The woman then stepped away to start photocopying my driver’s license. I wondered to myself where the photocopies were going to be stored.

Second Account Brings Second Set of Printouts

On her return to her office, she asked if I would like to open a checking account while I was there. I decided, why not? After all the time I had already invested, I’d go for it. Big mistake. It took another five minutes of typing and printing before an entirely new set of documents were presented. They looked like the same 12 pages I had just reviewed. Welcome to Inconvenience #5, as again I needed to “read” and sign another set of similar documents.

I needed starter checks for my new accounts. To process the new order of checks, there needed to be ten minutes more of keyboard banging, document printing and running back and forth to a room behind closed doors. Inconvenience #6. I received my generic checks for both accounts. By the way, I was hungry now, and could really use a martini.

From start to finish, it took over an hour for me to open two of the most basic accounts. This does not include the 15 minutes of drive-time each way (Inconvenience #7). In total, I had invested 90 minutes for the opportunity to establish a new relationship at my local bank.

And My Online Password ‘Is In The Mail’

Being a bit tired from the experience, I decided to wait a day to try and establish online banking access to my accounts. I looked through the mounds of paperwork, and found no instructions on how to do that, so I simply went straight to the website. I attempted to set up online access (Inconvenience #8, because they should have set this up for me in the branch) and found that my preliminary login info would be mailed to me in the next couple days. Yes, using the USPS.

Not totally surprisingly, I found that starting a relationship with a financial institution is very inconvenient. This experience is a great reminder that the financial services industry still has no idea how much friction exists for new and existing consumers.

The bulk of my experience could have been handled digitally. If you are a bank or credit union executive reading this, I suggest you audit the typical customer experience and fix it before you become completely irrelevant.

And offer martinis to waiting customers.

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