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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

10 Things Your Bank Won't Tell You

We've got 10 secrets that your bank doesn't want you to know.

1. "Our branches are there to sell you, not serve you."

In the late 1990s bank branches were considered outmoded relics soon to be replaced by ATMs and Internet banking. But just the opposite happened: In 1998 there were 89,000 bank branches in the U.S.; by 2007 there were 97,000. Why? The industry realized consumer banking was profitable and that despite the predictions of Silicon Valley wonks, the main criterion consumers use in choosing a bank is proximity, says SNL Financial analyst Jennifer Payne.

But branches aren't just about convenience; they're a bank's primary sales floor. Brochures for services as varied as retirement accounts and home loans are on display, and everyone from the teller on up is trained to make a sale. That's because in the current low-interest-rate climate, it's harder to generate revenue from interest alone. Many players in the industry have been trying to boost fee- and service-based income, so if a teller sees you have a mortgage, he might suggest you meet with a loan officer to discuss a home-equity loan. Says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at, "The more products a customer has with a bank, the more likely he is to stay with that bank."

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