When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, it was in part due to his emphasis on one important issue that impacted all Americans-the economy.
Fast forward to 2001, and a number of banks looking to win market share in the New York City metro area are following the same strategy, but with a different theme. The issue they believe will attract a large number of Gothamites to bank with them: service.
The latest bank to try this approach in the Big Apple is Commerce Bancorp, a suburban New Jersey bank with 170 branches, which opened an outlet in Manhattan last summer. Its goal: win customers away from financial giants Citibank and J.P. Morgan Chase. The way Commerce Bancorp will accomplish this Herculean task, according to chairman Vernon Hill, is by emphasizing the service details often overlooked or ignored by today's large banks. For example, Commerce branches are open seven days a week and feature tellers specially trained at "Commerce University," where they learn the ins and outs of financial customer service. The bank also emphasizes client comfort items-everything from coin counters to instant check cashing.
But will this service-oriented approach play on Broadway? My guess is that it will, since another bank has already shown it can succeed. North Fork Bancorp, a customer-centric regional bank based in Melville, N.Y., has had branches open in the New York City area for about a year. The result: $1 billion in new deposits and growing.
Another bank that has found success emphasizing customer experience is ING Bank, which has opened an ING Cafe coffee and financial services outlet in the city. Unlike Commerce and North Fork however, ING bank is backed by Dutch financial giant ING Group, a $640 billion financial services company. So ING has the wherewithal to bring its customer-focused approach to cities and regions around the nation.
Let's hope the success of ING Bank and the other customer-centric institutions is not lost on the large domestic bank chains, whose New York City service record has been somewhat haphazard of late (the much publicized Citibank ATM failure, for example). To be fair, many of these institutions have recently gone through mergers, and are only now getting all their combined systems in working order. Most probably believed they had enough customer loyalty to see them through this transition period. But it appears that the clock is ticking.