Local-level banks offer personal relationships with clients, lower cost and community involvement

Monday, June 5, 2017
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When deciding where to do your banking, there are a multitude of options. Are there true benefits to banking with a local bank versus a regional or national bank? Local bankers weigh in on why they feel it pays to bank locally.

"We know our customers," says Leslie Thompson, vice president of the Bank of Advance. "We know their names when they walk in the door. We see them at church and at the grocery store. Our kids are on ball teams with their kids."

Clint Karnes, community bank president of Wood & Huston Bank in Cape Girardeau agrees.

"The ability to build relationships is much easier in a community bank than in a regional or national bank," Karnes says. "We know who are customers are."

Local decision making is another advantage to banking with a local bank.

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"Our decisions are made locally," says Kevin Greaser, community bank president of Alliance Bank in Cape.

"We can provide [those] decisions in a much more timely manner [than a national bank]. And that is a significant advantage that enables us to provide one-to-one service much faster."

Jeff Sutton, regional bank president of Montgomery Bank in Sikeston, Missouri, agrees.

"Decision makers are typically from the communities we serve, and [they] have a keen awareness of community needs," Sutton says. "A lot of the decisioning process is done at the local level, which streamlines the decisioning and approval process, thus helping to offer superior service to our customers."

Karnes agrees.

"The platform by which decisions are made is much faster at a local bank," he says. "The decisions are made by local people, not some credit analyst in some far away place."

Immediate answers to questions and a quick resolution if a problem arises are other reasons to consider banking local, according to Kathy Bertrand, community bank president of First Midwest Bank in Cape.

"First of all, when you call us, you are going to talk to a real person," Bertrand says. "We do all of our mortgage loans in-house, so you can get an immediate answer right here. Also, say you're traveling and using your debit card a lot to pay for hotels and meals and things, and maybe you've gone over your daily limit ... all you have to do is call us and say 'Increase my limit' ... and, with the uptick in debit card fraud, you can call us if you have [an issue] and we will take care of it immediately."

Lower costs are yet another reason to bank local.

"We believe that we offer the same services [as a national bank] at a much lower cost," Greaser says. "For example, we don't charge anything [to have] a checking account [with us], and with most of our services, there are either no fees or the fees are much lower than you would pay at a regional or national bank."

Knowledge of the local market is an important advantage of local banks.

"Community banks keep a finger on the pulse of the communities they serve," Sutton says. "They are more apt to adjust products and services to meet customer needs. This is in sharp contrast to relatively stiff and rigid product and service offerings of a large corporate bank."

Bertrand shares that same philosophy.

"You might hear of something going on in the world or across the country regarding real estate being up or down or manufacturing being up or down, but that may not be what's going on here," Bertrand says. "We know our [local] markets and we know our people. We have those one-on-one relationships."

Thompson says investing in your local community is an important reason to consider banking locally.

"A local community bank fuels the economy of the communities we serve," Thompson says.

Greaser agrees.

"Your money goes to work in your local economy," he says. "Your dollars don't go out of town."

Many local banks are also good "corporate citizens."

"If you look around the room at local events, banks that are represented by volunteers, donations and support are overwhelmingly community banks," Sutton says. "We are profoundly conscious of our responsibility to be good corporate citizens. We realize the importance of reinvesting in our communities by supporting local charities and causes."

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