I will be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about financial regulations and changes to policies regarding bank accounts. However, I did get an education on this topic recently and was surprised by some of my findings.
My 16 year old daughter just started working at her first job – this is very exciting for both of us. One of the first things we did once she received her paycheck was talk about opening a checking account, accompanied by a discussion of how to manage money, and all of that fun stuff.
In preparation, when I stopped at a local branch of the bank we have been with for years, I inquired about teen accounts and asked what was required. At the time, I was told that I would need to be on her account since she is a minor, and all that would be required would be her school ID since she does not have a drivers license yet.
Fast forward to the first paycheck….I take my daughter to our local branch to open her account. She is more than excited and as we wait to speak with a banker, she is rattling on about how she is going to spend her money, asking if she will get a debit card, etc. The banker greets us and asks about the reason for our visit. After explaining, she then proceeds to tell me that she will need two forms of identification and her school ID will not be sufficient. I explain that I was in a week or two prior and was told it was fine since my husband and I were customers and we would be tied to the account. She went to check with her Manager, and we heard him say “absolutely not” and we realized she would not be opening an account that day.
Disappointed, we left the bank. My daughter, now eager to open an account, asked me what we were going to do. I was busy pondering the misinformation I received between my two visits. Being in the mystery shopping industry, I silently wondered if the bank was using a mystery shopping program, as this is one of the things that would be uncovered in a traditional program.
But, my daughter brought me back to reality, and I needed to figure out what we were going to do. I could go to the DMV and purchase a State ID, but she was getting her license in a couple of months and I didn’t want to spend the extra money just for the sake of opening a bank account. Back to my mystery shopping mentality, I put in a call to the branch on the other side of town, just to see what information I could get. Maybe the misinformation travels and this branch wouldn’t be so firm on the “two forms of identification” policy.
It gets better…..at this branch, they told me there was no way possible for her to open an account until she was 17 years of age, identification or not.
Okay, so clearly my daughter was not going to be banking where my husband and I do. This was disappointing, as we are long time customers and have all of our accounts, including our mortgage, housed at this bank. I had to come to terms with that. I ended up doing some research to figure out the best option. We found a bank for her, and all that was needed was her school ID plus my name being on the account since she is a minor.
I’m still surprised by this series of events; it’s not something that is necessarily a “make or break” situation and would cause us to switch banks by any means, but it did give me food for thought:
1. Regulations are regulations: while there are new laws and policies to abide by, and banking institutions of course are worried about implications of not adhering to them, I completely understand why some financial institutions may be more rigid than others. In the grand scheme of things though, retaining customers might be a good reason for really looking at policies and determining if any allowances can be made in certain situations. In many, I’m sure there is no room to bend, but in others, there may be, and that might be the difference between a new customer or one who leaves the bank all together.
2. Make sure your information is consistent across the board: establish policies that are consistent across all locations. I’m not sure the average consumer would have thought to call another branch of the same bank to see if the same information is given, but if they did, imagine the confusion from three completely different versions of a policy on teen checking accounts. Ensure that training procedures are uniform, and that you are measuring performance on a regular basis.
3. Do some competitive intelligence: are you losing customers in a key demographic? Is traffic down? In an increasingly competitive industry, it’s not a bad idea to conduct competitive intelligence evaluations on a periodic basis. In this case, it would be interesting to see the results from a study of banks as it relates to opening teen accounts – what information is required? Does the bank cater to this age group? What types of accounts are available? What features does it offer – mobile, online, text alerts, etc? Do the options vary across a bank’s branches? This type of information can be collected in an objective manner, with results compiled in a way to help banks understand what customers are looking for, what is available to them, and to ensure that information is consistent across the board.
All in all, my daughter is happy with the bank she ended up with, and I did like how they treated her. We spent quite some time in the branch while she got a mini education on banking and maintaining a checking account and savings account. I know we will be happy there, but I am disappointed that she could not open an account at “our” bank and with the experience we had there.