Arianna Huffington and Rob Johnson's clarion call to "move your money" to community banks should be extended to your local governments and businesses.
When you bank local, your money stays in the local economy. Too many businesses and even municipalities bank with big nationals without realizing that their money could go much further if it stayed on Main Street.
Last year I urged my hometown, Washington DC, to bank local. I promised that if they deposited with community banks like mine, we could return the funds at a ratio of 2-to-1 with loans to local small and mid-sized businesses. DC government coffers are filled with tens of millions of dollars and so that promise represents a real economic opportunity for an area struggling with job losses.
The D.C. government is still considering the switch, but communities across the country need to consider it as well. With enough calls and inquiries from constituents and employees, I'm confident that a real sea change is possible because I know that local banks can deliver (for information on how to reach you local representatives, go here)
Beyond the obvious benefits of keeping money in the local economy, good community banks can deliver three essential attributes to businesses and government clients:
1) Personal Service - You'll know who you're banking with because we're your neighbors. We can be flexible in devising solutions for you and can answer your questions quickly and honestly because the decision-makers are all here.
2) Local Expertise - We understand the local economy better than national banks and so we can execute smarter loans that are safer and reflect the businesses and projects that best serve the community.
3) Product Diversity - If you haven't inquired lately, we can match the diversity of products offered by the big nationals - from online banking to currency exchange.
An intangible that you'll find at community banks is a real passion for banking. We thrive on pointing out a hardware store, an office building or physician's group that we helped finance and grow. In short, we take pride in our work. I can't tell you how many banking executives are heading back to "their roots" in community banking. And it's not just because the big banks aren't hiring.
To be clear, I am not opposed to large banks. I just see them as less capable of serving the needs of local customers. As Arianna and Rob said, moving your money is about moving towards "re-rigging the financial system so it becomes again the productive, stable engine for growth it's meant to be." Community banks understand where the growth opportunities are in communities across the country because they live there. They also have the sense of personal and professional accountability that can only come from seeing their customers every day.