Does Your Bank Love You or View You as an Easy Mark?
Many consumers pay little attention to the quality of certain vendors. Banking is all the same right? And yet, we find that the CEO or owner of all businesses sets the tone in how customers and employees are treated.
In 1990, I launched Inspired Work out of my condo in Malibu. I was excited, scared, proud, and resolute. Right after getting my corporation papers, I took off for my branch at First Interstate Bank. I remember walking through the door holding those papers as if they were first prize in a contest for personal change. The representative gave the paperwork a glance and with a dismissive sweep of her hands said I was missing a document and to come back. A few days later I did come back to shut down my accounts. In the next few years, First Interstate was swallowed up by Wells Fargo. I left because I didn’t want to be with a vendor that viewed me as just another task.
My accountant referred me into City National Bank and I have been there ever since. For consumers as well as employees, there couldn’t be a more stark contrast between the two.
This past week, Wells Fargo admitted that it improperly foreclosed on 40% more borrowers than first reported. But, to put the latest scandal into sharp focus, let’s review the organization’s behavior over the last two years:
- Regulators fine Wells Fargo $185 for creating as many as 2 million fake accounts to juice the bank’s books. The bank dismisses 5,300 employees who were acting under the orders of the divisional head. None of the transcripts reveal who was pressuring such a large number of workers to commit fraud.
- It is revealed that Wells Fargo retaliated against workers who tried to blow the whistle on the fake account practice.
- New allegations are lodged that the bank modified thousand of home mortgages without getting authorizations from the customers.
- The bank admits it charged 570,000 customers for auto insurance they did not need.
- A class-actions lawsuit is filed in behalf of small business owners for overcharges on credit card transactions.
- The year closes with a new scandel. Thousands of mortgage holders were fined for missing deadlines. And yet, the notices were purposely delayed to orchestrate even more income.
The Federal Reserve makes an announcement that Wells Fargo will not be allowed to grow its assets until it cleans up its act.
Consider the pact with the devil that employees of Wells Fargo have had to embrace in order to work there. Perhaps the single biggest blow to the shareholders of this organization is that premium talent will no longer consider Wells Fargo as a premium employer.
The first time I became aware of City National Bank was in reading about the kidnapping of Frank Sintra, Jr. The criminals contacted his father and refused to return the young man unless he brought them $240,000. The bank’s first CEO got out of bed and personally counted out the money in their headquarter’s vault.
I’ve been with the bank for 28 years and have never had a hiccup. Everyone that I know who is with City National has this kind of fierce loyalty and I can only wonder, why do banks such as Wells Fargo even have clients?
The entire ethos of City National Bank’s consumer and employer brands is reflected in one employee. I was her favorite customer.
For years, Jennifer was A.J. Kroener’s assistant at the Century City Office. Whenever I walked in the door, she would call out, “David, how are you?” She always made it clear that if I had any problem, she would take care of it. Trust me, I was not their wealthiest client. But, she treated me as if all valuables in their vaults were in my name. After years of hard work, I was able to order a new BMW convertible. Jennifer took care of all the paperwork. At the time, I was single and spending a lot of time on the road. Jennifer became the person that actually celebrated the purchase. The day it was delivered, I dropped by the bank to make a deposit. I remember walking in the door and Jennifer yelled out, “Did you get it? Is it here? Take me on a ride.”
She took a break and walked out to the garage. I put down the roof, cranked up the stereo and took off. Her hair was flying as she held her hands in the hair yelling, “Woo hoo!” I thanked her for being so kind in helping me get the car. She laughed, “Help? You’re my favorite customer.”
A few days later, I walked in the door and Jennifer wasn’t there. The energy was off and I asked what was going on. Jennifer had a heart attack and passed away.
Hundreds of people showed up to her funeral.
Most of us were customers. Some of us walked up to the podium and declared we were her best customer.
The thing is, many of the customers and employers are still there and we recount how her enthusiasm and kindness changed our lives.
Here is what I propose. If you are a business leader and you are trying to develop a strategy for making real money, compare the two stories.
Which one would you emulate?