Banking customers value service, according to study

Regional Banner Bank tops the customer satisfaction list in the Portland Metro area

iQ Credit Union
iQ Credit Union’s Community Time Off (CTO) program allows employees to volunteer during work hours. iQ employees are shown here volunteering at the Clark County Food Bank. Courtesy of iQ Credit Union

J.D. Power recently released its 13th annual J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, which rates customer satisfaction with 200 of the largest banks in the United States.

In the Portland Metro area, three of the top five performers were regional banks. Banner Bank topped the list, followed by Columbia State Bank, Chase Bank, Umpqua Bank and KeyBank.

“Those who are managing to get the customer satisfaction formula right, with the right combination of high-tech and high-touch customer interaction, are already setting the pace for others to follow,” said Bob Neuhaus, senior director of Financial Services at J.D. Power.

This was the second consecutive year – and the fourth time since 2012 – that Banner Bank was recognized for providing outstanding service to its clients. The study factors include products and fees, convenience, account opening, communication and advice, channel activities and problem resolution.

Jim Reed, Banner Bank’s executive vice president, said that Banner has also been named in the top 100 banks in the nation by Forbes and the best bank in Oregon.

“This recognition is coming from independent sources that validate our commitment to providing value to our clients,” Reed said. “We pay attention to what our consumer and business clients are looking for.”

KeyBank is also focusing on customer satisfaction, according to their Oregon and Southwest Washington president Michelle Weisenbach.

“Customers are looking for convenience and security,” Weisenbach said. She added that customers also want a strong adviser who understands the customer’s goals and has the tools to help them get there.

The J.D. Power study did not include credit unions, but local iQ Credit Union CEO Kelly Schrader said that customer service – meeting customers where they’re at – is top of mind for iQ as well.

“We provide options to interact with us in the way they choose, whether that is a high-speed mobile app or a visit to a fully staffed branch,” Schrader said.

Another thing Reed, Weisenbach and Schrader agree on is that 2018 has been a very good year for financial institutions.

“It’s a good time for banks,” Reed said, especially in the Pacific Northwest, which is experiencing sustained economic growth.

Weisenbach reported that KeyBank’s year-over-year revenue is up double digits, and she expects that to continue through 2018. For iQ, Schrader said that the credit union is “on track to achieve a new membership net growth of 8 percent” – the highest annual growth they’ve ever had. And, Schrader added, iQ has already lent more than $55 million this year in the Portland/Vancouver community.

“We feel proud to be a part of the growth in our area,” Schrader said.

With interest rates starting to rise after a long period of stability, and tax changes that have benefited businesses, Reed expects the financial industry to remain dynamic.

Customer Centricity Key to Success

Each financial institution offers unique products and services that meet their customers’ needs. For example, Banner Bank offers live chat, a commercial security feature that helps prevent check fraud at the business level and a “card valet” service that lets business clients manage corporate credit cards at a granular level (from a smartphone), such as changing balance limits or limiting the card functionality to a specific geographical region.

At KeyBank, they are putting data analytics to work to help customers. Data about the number of deposits, for example, lets KeyBank make intelligent product and service recommendations. Or, the bank can alert a customer who has signed up for budgeting assistance that they’ve reached their “eating out” limit. The bank also offers financial health training to business customers’ employees.

“Automation and data analytics can help us – they are really powerful,” Weisenbach said. “It makes you think, ‘I did something good today’ as a banker.”

Inclusion and diversity, such as making mortgage applications available in several languages, is also a priority at KeyBank, Weisenbach said, to “ensure we’re serving all populations as best we can.”

Providing several options to customers, instead of locking them into a single product or service, is one way iQ keeps their customers happy. For instance, the credit union offers interest-bearing checking accounts as well as higher rates on money market or savings accounts. They also have a loyalty program, where long-time customers receive a higher rate on a deposit account or a lower rate on a loan to reward the relationship.

While cybersecurity and governmental compliance and regulation are well-known challenges for all financial institutions, local banks and credit unions are also facing workforce challenges.

Meeting Today’s Challenges

Schrader said that unemployment in the Pacific Northwest has reached an historic low, and that makes it imperative to “take good care of employees.”

“People are willing to pay high dollar to attract talent to their organization,” she said.

To better engage with employees, iQ recently launched their “Community Time Off” program, which allows employees to volunteer during work hours. The credit union also takes suggestions from employees about events to not only sponsor financially but also to actively participate in.

“That speaks volumes to our employees about our commitment – people see we really do care about the communities where our business is,” said Schrader.

The increased focus on data analytics and the continual effort to stay one step ahead of fraud and hackers is leading Banner Bank to bring in skill sets not traditionally associated with banking, such as data science and cyber-risk modeling.

“We’ve hired several brilliant young people in the last six months,” said Reed, who added that they have also brought on board members with technology backgrounds.

The aging population is also a factor. Banner Bank has taken a creative approach to transitioning experienced bankers who want to retire to part-time work while training new hires.

What’s Next?

With the second half of 2018 looking as strong as the first half, banks are eyeing expansion. Schrader said that iQ is planning to open a second Portland branch (the first opened in late 2017) before the end of the year. It will be in the north to northwest quadrant of Portland.

“So many of our members commute into Portland that we want to meet the members where they are,” Schrader said.

While specific details were not available, Reed said that Banner Bank plans to “leverage our growth in Portland into Vancouver; Clark County growth justifies more presence.” (Banner opened a Salmon Creek office three years ago.) And Weisenbach stated that “the market is very dynamic in Clark County – we are really excited to see the growth in the community. We’ll continue to watch what happens on both sides of the river.”



Jodie Gilmore’s journalistic background includes more than 15 years of writing for the Vancouver Business Journal as well as other publications such as Northwest Women’s Journal, North Bank Magazine, American Builders Quarterly and The New American. A Master’s in Technical & Professional Writing and 20+ years in the trenches as a technical writer and online help developer round out her writing background. When not writing, she enjoys gardening and working on her small farm in the Cascade foothills.