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Did You Choose Your Current Bank, Or Did It Happen When You Weren't Looking?

I just read a short piece in the Mercury News about a bank customer who "somehow became a customer of all four of the nation's remaining banking giants." It sounded familiar, so I took a look at my financial database and voila, add me to that list. The difference is I know how I got to be a customer of all four of the nation's remaining banking giants.

I just read a short piece in the Mercury News about a bank customer who "somehow became a customer of all four of the nation's remaining banking giants." It sounded familiar, so I took a look at my financial database and voila, add me to that list. The difference is I know how I got to be a customer of all four of the nation's remaining banking giants.• My WaMu mortgages are now at Chase. • A Citi credit card that I've had for four decades, based purely on loyalty, puts me on Citi's list of billions of customers. • Wells Fargo handles my merchant account but I didn't choose them. BofA was my choice and then it sold the business to Wells Fargo. • BofA has been my primary bank because I chose its predecessors. (NationsBank was my client, and Fleet Bank was once my employer).

So two out of four were my idea, but I'll stick with all four now because I'm getting the best of the relationships. And that's what banking should be about. "What's in it for me?" is quite a valid question when buyers are looking to create a relationship with any vendor.

I'm not saying the customer is always right, but the customer has options, thousands of them in this case, and they are as convenient as one's desktop. My rules for selecting a bank are basic but legitimate:

1. The rate should be in my favor, not the bank's-lowest on loans/highest on deposits. 2. The bank should say "yes" willingly when I want something that's reasonable. 3. As a long time customer, my unusual transactions should be hassle-free. 4. My bank should have a heart. My Citi relationship began right after I launched my consulting practice. I was walking down 3rd Avenue in Manhattan and went into a branch to apply for a line of credit. I approached the first loan officer in the lobby who wasn't busy. Thirty minutes later I had a $25k signature line of credit (no collateral) and a huge dose of pride. I asked the young guy how he managed to get approval without checking with Walter Wriston first. He said, "With a resume like yours (Project Manager at Booz Allen & Hamilton) you'll do very well, and we're happy to be part of your new venture."

These days, it's not easy to find a bank that will do everything the customer wants. And forget about the part about heart. It's a new world out there and I can think of a dozen clichés that apply.

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