GirlDriver, USA

GirlDriver, USA
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Friday, August 31, 2012

Auto Loaner is also a Kind of Bank of the Future

I had lunch with my friend Gina Proia last week.  She is the Chief Communications Officer for Ally bank and has been with them throughout the mortgage foreclosures, etc.  I knew Ally Bank as GMAC and have watched its transition into Ally but have thought of them mostly as a lender for automotive.  They do finance many of the car loans through dealerships and in partnership with some of the auto companies and that is mostly how we define them.

Now we all hate the banks.  That's a given.  And don't think they don't know that.  But I was actually impressed by the retail products and services they have.  Ally Bank offers some compelling arguments for changing banks, granted a difficult thing to do when you have done business with a bank for as long as I have been with mine--over 20 years.

What's most interesting  is that the bank does not have any retail presence at all--i.e., it is not occupying every corner of New York City with a bank and thank you for that.  One day we'll walk past interesting shops again maybe?

Not having retail makes it hard for them to get the word out that they have a retail business but the no bricks and mortar benefit is obvious--they aren't paying rent in all those places, which has to be a huge bite out of Citibank, Chase, HBSC and other bank's bottom lines.  That they don't have to pay for all that retail space has to be one of the reasons that Ally Bank can provide its customers with real benefits.  That's really smart.

Ally Bank will let you get cash out of any other banks's ATM for free (they reimburse you for any fees you incur) and they have an App that you can download to your phone that tells you where the nearest ATM is. 

They offer interest bearing checking accounts with no minimum deposit, money market accounts, online savings accounts with competitive rates and high interest CDs with flexible term options, no penalty CDs in 11 month terms and raise your rate CDs in two-year and four-year terms.  They also offer IRA products.

All of their products offer no minimum deposit, no monthly maintenance fees, and daily compounded interest.  Chase Bank just helped themselves to maintenance fees on my account because I didn't have a balance of $7,000 in my no interest checking account. Are they just kidding around about the seven grand?  Apparently not.

Ally Bank is one of several banks have a feature that allows you to scan a check and get remote deposit.  They currently offer that via scanning and sending on a computer.  The ability to do it on your phone is coming later this year with phase two of their mobile application.  Very cool if, like me, you still get checks in the mail.  Ally eCheck Deposit supplements other deposit methods to Ally Bank accounts including transferring money
online from another financial institution, direct deposit, wire transfer and U.S. mail., for which Ally Bank provides postage paid envelopes.

I payed $40 for my last box of checks at Chase.  At Ally they would be free.  Free security software.  You can send money to people--say someone in your family needs money--electronically and for free.

"We have some tools on our site for consumers like a payment calculator that might be helpful for folks," says Proia.

"Also, we have a free financial literacy program called Ally Wallet Wise that covers many topics including auto financing."

 Is this virtualness the future of banking I asked Gina?  Say in 20 years there won't be any bricks and mortar banks?  She thinks we're moving in that direction.  I know she'd say that because she's in PR but it seems totally logical to me that banking will be virtual.  Should you have problems with your Ally banking you can reach a live person by phone or via online chat 24/7. You don't even have to go through 15 multiple choice menus that  raise your blood pressure to get to a live person.  Just type in the name you want to be referred by and check the subject matter and you are connected to a real person.  Customers can even preview current call-in wait times, if  applicable, at or by using Ally Mobile Banking.

Every company says they are focused on customer satisfaction but few actually are.  Now I'm not an Ally customer (yet) so I don't know if all these services and products work perfectly but you can see, they do have a customer focus. 

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