As banks work to reinvent themselves into Community Financial Centers, they will attract the attention of local businesses and people who work to make a difference. Astoria Federal Savings of New York, for example, has done this with an annual essay contest for children aged 5-12. The contest, designed to help children learn to save for the future, costs Astoria Federal approximately $5,000. Considering that Astoria Federal is the fourth largest depository institution in its market, $5,000 is a relatively small price tag for a program that gives back to the community and develops loyalty from children and parents alike. What parent would not appreciate the help to teach his or her children good financial management habits? And, what child who becomes one of the many prize winners would not want to bank at such an institution? It is all good.
Choice Bank in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, has also embraced the idea of becoming a Community Financial Center; Choice uses its website to promote interaction between the bank and community residents. Any community event can be posted on the bank's website, and news, weather and many other items are also posted for the public's reference. In certain circumstances, community groups may even reserve the bank's conference room for special meetings. Choice Bank is also ahead of the banking internet curve; they have a blog! The blog is used to disseminate news and information to customers, and people are allowed to make comments freely on the blog-how great is that? This open communication allows significant access to the bank's management, and shows one interpretation of what it means to be a ‘Community Financial Center'.
Starbucks Coffee changed the way Americans viewed coffee by selling it in an environment suitable for socializing, doing business and, of course, enjoying coffee. I've held many business meetings at Starbucks-even though I don't drink coffee-because the place works for business, especially for mobile business where an Internet connection is required. Banks have the opportunity, as Community Financial Centers, to develop a similar business- and people-friendly atmosphere. This would of course require a marked change from the cold marble surroundings for which many banks are known. Should more banks follow this path, people might someday be asking, "What community financial center do you use?"
P.S. if you are in Oshkosh, stop in to Choice Bank for a cup of the bank's very own Choice Bank Coffee.By Wendell Brock, MBA, ChFC Principal, De Novo Strategy