Mind-blowing account openings

Are you making the most of your brand when a member first joins? We did a simple mystery shop of the big banks to see how they handled account openings.

Here's how the big boys compare:

1) Can anyone walk in and open an account immediately?

  • TD: No, needed to make an appointment.
  • CIBC: They preferred an appointment, but let me choose the time and were very flexible about finding one that suited my schedule. That's cool!
  • RBC: I tried the online/in-branch combo. I filled out an online application, and a day later someone back east called me to make an appointment at the branch one block away from my house.
  • Scotiabank: They prefer an appointment, but I could tell they didn't want me to get away. Normally you wait in the line up and the teller makes the appointment.
  • BMO: Yes, if a staff member is available. Otherwise appointment.

2) Did the staff member have the power to override things upon request, such as holds on cheques, ATM limits, etc.?

  • TD: No, the request goes back east. He was unsure of the wait time, but thought one or two days for approval sounded right.
  • CIBC: No, the "system" was in control.
  • RBC: Again, it was beyond that staff member's control.
  • Scotiabank: The staff member barely had power to use the computer! It was an interesting experience to have the monitor turned to me so I could help her trouble-shoot. However, it was interesting to be able to read all the CRM prompts! Back to the question: Power to override lies with head office.
  • BMO: No, the "system" was in control. Yes, echoed verbatim what CIBC told me.

3) Did the bank effectively use that situation to upsell other services?

  • TD: No other questions were asked, and it was the start of RRSP time!
  • CIBC: Yes, asked about credit card and RRSPs.
  • RBC: Yes, very effective. Despite feeling I was "small potatoes", she didn't make assumptions and had a very comfortable way of asking about my other banking needs.
  • Scotiabank: No upselling was done, although the experience took 1.5 hours, so she was making an effort to have the remainder of my visit go quickly.
  • BMO: Upsold me on a savings account for no additional fee.

4) Did the bank do anything out of the ordinary to make the account opening a memorable experience (i.e. giveaways, or a tour and introduction of branch staff)?

  • TD: Gave me a debit card and folder. PIN'd my card at their desk, which was convenient. Pointed me to the teller wicket to make my deposit.
  • CIBC: Gave me a debit card and folder. Used their ATM machine to set my PIN. Walked with me and assisted.
  • RBC: Gave me a debit card with a horrible sticker and my card number handwritten. RBC is the only bank that still produces personalized debit cards. Every other bank doesn't do this for security reasons. Card is PIN'd right at staff member's desk. Also received a folder.
  • Scotiabank: I received 1,000 points (=1 movie pass) with my debit card. However that is standard. Received a folder, but no other effort was made.
  • BMO: Gave me a debit card and folder. Used their ATM machine to set my PIN. Walked with me and assisted. Walked me to the teller to make my deposit.

5) General comments about the experience.

  • TD: This was a new branch. I felt very much like I was dealing with "the new guy." I wanted to come back later and get the "real" answers.
  • CIBC: The rep here was friendly and professional. I felt she established a friendly and respectful bond with me and put me at ease. Despite a rocky start (the new account counter said "please go to the teller" and the teller tried to point me back to the new account counter after my 15-minute line-up wait) they recovered with attentive service. A flyer advertised a job night as "Stuff? Conservative? Boring? Think again!" It was ironic that this branch (fairly recently refurbished) looked stuffy, conservative and boring.
  • RBC: The online experience left me feeling not wealthy enough, once I scanned the elite occupation list and answered the several questions that concentrated on whether I would be making deposits in excess of $5,000. I found out during my appointment that these questions are centered around uncovering money laundering. How Hollywood-espionage-esque!
  • Scotiabank: Wow, kind of a gong show. I don't mind that I had a newbie opening my account, but when I was waiting in line for 10+ minutes to get my card pinned, because a personal friend was chatting to one of only two tellers... I've got to say that set my temperature on simmer.
  • BMO: This was a new branch with shiny, smiley faces. Very cordial. The account opening fellow was pleasant but very sales-y. I wonder if this is a woman-man thing on my part?

Interesting thought: The TD, Scotiabank and BMO all were new branches near my house that opened at least 6-12 months prior to my visit. Yet the staff there were new, freshly trained employees. They seemed less confident and more willing to let the system dictate how they could help me - therefore reinforcing my perception that banks just don't care.

Wouldn't it make sense to staff a new branch with your most experienced, brand-knowledgeable people, since you could make the assumption that a new branch's main strategy would be acquisition?

Thought-starter: Wouldn't it be great if every new member of your credit union got a tour of the branch and an introduction to the staff? Wouldn't it help foster principle #2 of a co-operative if every new member received a little information package about how the credit union system worked, and why it's a cool thing to participate at the AGM? If a person has to pay to be a part of something, make me feel like I belong!

I will be random shopping these banks periodically and sharing my experiences here. If there's something you want to find out about the big bank competition, leave a comment or send me an e-mail, and I'll incorporate it into my next round of visits!


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I need some wisdom from the crowd. What do you have to say about small credit unions?