Banking on old-fashioned service
New branches in East County blend technology with a personal touch
Banks, like coffee shops, seem to be springing up on every street corner.
In the past 18 months, KeyBank and Chase have opened new branches in Gresham and Troutdale, and come summer, Riverview Community Bank will join the ranks with its first free-standing branch on Southeast Burnside Road.
But with more folks utilizing mobile banking technology, entering a bank these days seems like an old-school way of doing business.
'The reality is that technology has allowed the consumer to be in better touch with their accounts on a regular basis, and that's good,' said John Nolting, senior vice president for KeyBank in Oregon and southwest Washington. 'What it has allowed us to do is shift from a strictly transactional relationship to being able to sit down with the customer and help them achieve their dreams.'
It's no secret that public sentiment of financial institutions, and banks in general, has waned in recent years. Customers have abandoned traditional banks in favor of credit unions as fees charged by some institutions have skyrocketed and the whole experience has become less personal.
The tide is changing, however, as banks are placing a higher priority on customer service, personal relationships with their customers and providing more banking convenience.
KeyBank has been a mainstay on the corner of Eastman Parkway and Burnside Road for decades. Until the opening of two branches in Gresham and one in Troutdale, KeyBank customers were severely limited with branch accessibility.
Improving their visibility in the East County area was part of the company's mission to become the top customer service company in the industry, Nolting said.
'We were under-serving the area from a standpoint of convenience,' he said. 'We see East County as a robust part of the market, and we've seen a dramatic increase in new customers since the new branches opened.'
It's a trend echoed by Cory Freeman, district manager for Chase, who said the bank's newest branch on Southeast Stark Street and Hogan Drive has exceeded new customer expectations and provided easier access for existing customers.
'Our research has shown that people like to bank within 2 miles of their home,' Freeman said. 'Many of our customers choose a branch for convenience, so it's all about making our branch network more convenient for them. This location fits that bill.'
Chase acquired the former Washington Mutual Bank in September 2008. The company retained the in-store and freestanding branches, as well as Washington Mutual's employees, and currently manages 110 branches in Oregon.
Chase has also become a leader in the mobile banking market. It is offering services unmatched in the industry, such as making deposits via a SmartPhone scanner and an ability to transfer funds from mobile device to mobile device. But it doesn't mean Chase is curtailing its face time with customers.
'Our technology is fantastic,' Freeman said. 'We have customers tell us all the time that they like the mobile availability and ease of use. I think that's what differentiates us, but people still want that personal touch. They still want a personal relationship with their bankers.'
Chase and KeyBank may be diversifying services to meet customer demand, but at Riverview Community Bank, the bells and whistles aren't a top priority.
'There's a large part of the community who isn't interested in those things,' said Casey Ryan, vice president and branch manager for Riverview. 'We are a simple bank that does banking the old-fashioned way.'
What distinguishes Riverview from the big banks, Ryan said, is its hometown emphasis. Deposits are used as reinvestment within the community to promote business growth and help customers reach their financial goals. Ryan admitted community banks are more vulnerable to a fluctuating economy, simply because they lack the backing of larger resources to aid during tough times, but their roots in the communities they serve make their business more personal.
'There's always going to be a need for community banks because people can see that their money is going to support local business,' he said. 'People aren't numbers - they're relationships. The bigger banks will spend all the time in the world telling you they're a community bank. Riverview will spend no time telling you we're a big bank because we're not. We're just a small-town bank, started in Camas, (Wash.) in 1923.'
As seemingly different as KeyBank, Chase and Riverview are, one thing unites their interaction with the community. All believe in giving back to the communities they serve, through outreach, charitable donations and volunteering. Additionally, they hire local residents and encourage their middle management personnel to live in the area where they work.
'We need to hire locally,' said Freeman, with Chase. 'Our new branch was built by local sub-contractors and is serviced by local companies. To be part of the community, we need to support the community.'
KeyBank's Nolting concurs, noting the bank's annual Make a Difference Day, where branches close to allow employees to give of their time to charitable causes.
'Being involved in the community is a pillar to Key,' he said. 'Our employees who live here are invested in the chamber, they volunteer with SnowCAP and other organizations. We believe in living, working and supporting our communities.'