I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks searching for a replacement bank. I went into branches, called customer service numbers, asked the same questions of different employees, and asked friends & coworkers for advice. I’m pretty sure I compared all the locals (Mid Penn, Members 1st, Centric, etc), regionals (PNC, Citizens), and nationals (E*Trade and ING). Almost every bank had its benefits, but Integrity Bank really stood out. I’ll try and outline my reasons here, but remember that there is no end-all be-all bank for everyone. Note: If things like free gourmet coffee and a well-designed interior don’t interest you, skip the next two paragraphs.
The first thing I noticed about Integrity Bank is their unorthodox branch design. Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud. And there’s function to the form; not only is the exterior design unique, but the interior layout took a very obvious cue from Commerce. As you walk into the stanchion-free sunlight-drenched lobby, complete with a ridiculous number of free pens, you’re immediately greeted by the smell of cookies and coffee. FREE cookies and coffee.
And I’m not talking about a shady-looking coffeemaker next to a pile of styrofoam cups cranking out burnt Folgers. Two stainless steel carafes offer two different blends (in my case, Costa Rican and French Vanilla) next to environmentally-friendlier double-walled paper cups. These were set next to a assortment of about a half dozen types of (soft! chewy!) cookies. Since I walked in just before closing, it’s safe to assume that the coffee (and cookies) are fresh throughout the day.
While all of that is nice, it doesn’t mean anything if the service isn’t up to par and/or the rates are no good. With a checking account at .5% and savings account at 1%, Integrity actually had the highest rates in the area for no-fee, no-minimum accounts.
My only complaint — which ultimately became a tale of epic customer service success — about Integrity involves their online banking website. It is not good. While their website is technically functional and can do everything I need it to, the overall navigation is awkward. For example, when I click on “Bill Pay”, a popup window appears letting me know that I’m entering bill pay. When I click “Ok”, a second popup window appears letting me know I’ve just entered bill pay. It gets old pretty quick.
I emailed the bank to ask if there was any way to improve upon this. Almost immediately, an employee responded thanking me for my feedback and stating that my concerns would be “forwarded to senior management”. Sure – I’ve heard that before. I figured that would be the end of it. Companies always like dumping customer feedback in to the Pit of “We Value Your Business” And Other Cliches. If you’re lucky and 50,000 other people happen to complain about the exact same thing, you might reasonably expect a slight improvement at some point before the next century.
Imagine my surprise when the next day I received another email from Integrity Bank. It thanked me again for my feedback and explained that they are currently executing a complete overhaul of the online interface to “a more robust platform”. While she didn’t have an exact date, she expected it to go live sometime this fall. Furthermore, she said she’d inquire with their current vendor to see if the popups could be disabled. The fact that I received any further response at all is impressive in its own right, but this particular response came from Laurel Leitzel, Integrity Bank’s CFO. That’s right; their Chief Financial Officer took the time to personally respond to my complaint! It’s not like I have a $500,000 mortgage and three car loans through them. Just my no-frills, low-balance checking & savings accounts.
If this is how Integrity treats me as a brand-new, low-revenue customer, then I know without a shadow of a doubt that these are the guys I want in my corner when I go for my next mortgage. The fact that my concern received a response straight from the top speaks volumes to the value Integrity Bank places on customer service — far more so than any billboard, pamphlet, or website ever could.
The staff at the Allentown Boulevard branch was great. Nobody tried to hard-sell me any “upgrades” or unnecessary services. The customer service representative I worked with was able to answer all my questions without hesitation (based on my experiences shopping some other local bank branches, this is a pretty big deal). The branch manager came over and chatted with us while I was doing my comparison shopping. And until this past Thursday, I’ve never had a bank teller come over and refill my coffee, let alone without me asking.
Another nice touch is that Integrity will not only destroy your old checkbook(s) and ATM / debit / credit cards from your previous financial institution, but they’ll actually pay you $2 per checkbook and $1 per card up to a maximum of $25. No forms, no haggling – I just took in my leftover bank remnants and received an immediate deposit into my account. Not bad.
The icing on the cake (as if the email from the EVP / CFO wasn’t enough) was the hand-written thank-you card I received in the mail a few days after signing up. It’s a minor detail, and one that ultimately doesn’t impact my finances at all. But I prefer to do business with businesses that treat me like a human being, and this goes a long way towards showing that.
If you’re one of the many former Commerce customers who has been obliterated by Metro Bank, take a close look at Integrity. They seem to have expanded upon most of Commerce’s more unique features while adding a few of their own.
For what it’s worth, if I hadn’t signed up with Integrity, I probably would have gone with either Centric or E*Trade. Like Integrity, Centric has some very pro-consumer policies (for example, transactions post immediately with no daily cutoff time). E*Trade has a very, very robust web interface (and their commercials are great).