This is an age of foment for the banking industry. The demarcation lines between banks, lending institutions and even credit card companies seem to shift as new financial products emerge on the market and traditional banking models give way to innovative practices. The notion of banks as businesses that make money by charging interest and transaction fees has largely been supplanted by the reality that banks make money by managing and moving large sums of money. Then, too, cryptocurrency has virtually entered the mainstream market, further challenging traditional concepts of banking. Regardless, the reality is you do need banks. Indeed, banks have spoiled the public by going digital and making their ever-growing list of products accessible even over your cellphone. Thus, it is important to know what makes an institution a worthy bank and which ones are judged to be the best.
The View From the Top
The last few decades have seen great consolidation in the banking industry. Truly independent banks have become more of a rarity as large banking corporations buy smaller ones and merge into mammoth conglomerates. The ability of these banks to grow and remain profitable has shifted in large measure to visionary investment bankers, many of them legendary among their colleagues like Prabir Purohit. Such individuals have a dynamic overview of particular industries, current events and the interconnected global economy. Not only do investment bankers guide the financial decisions of the banks themselves but they also provide investment tools for their customers as a part of that aspect of banking known as wealth management. Far beyond setting up IRAs and 401Ks, wealth management professionals serve those at the peak of the financial mountain.
Factors That Make a Worthwhile Bank
When it comes to the banks themselves, there are a number of minimum default conditions that determine its status as a worthwhile institution:
- Linked online accounts. This means first of all that you have instant, round-the-clock access to your accounts and you can easily move funds from one account to another.
- A minimal fee structure. This implies that bank charges for things like overdrafts, canceled checks, money transfers and so forth are clearly stated and not overwhelming. Free notary service and cashier’s checks are available for customers. Lesser banks, on the other hand, often use fees as a primary money-making tool.
- Low-interest loans for valued customers.
- Real customer service. Part of this is good training for bank employees and the ability to minimize the employee revolving door.
The Cream of the Crop
So which institutions are generally evaluated as being the best of the bunch? In a recent article, Business Insider came up with a list that named the top banks by region, plus the best online bank. You should note this is only one of many lists offered up as the best banks around. These are all national banks, meaning no matter where you live in the country, you can bank with any of them. The best bank nationwide was Chase and the finest online bank was Ally. In the Northeast, the top bank was T.D. Bank, while in the Southeast it was Regions. US Bank took the honors in the Midwest and West. In the Southwest, it was Bank of America.
Cryptocurrency Creeps In
The elephant in the board room is cryptocurrency, the mysterious, poorly understood, decentralized fluctuating forms of money that are so exciting and controversial. It seems that digital fortunes are being made and lost in these currencies whose values are “volatile” (they fluctuate wildly). The prevailing wisdom of some of the wisest economists and financial experts is that banks will soon have to engage in formal, official dealings with cryptos. The reality is that many banks are ahead of the curve with cryptos, with some having toyed with crypto-based financial products as much as a decade ago. JPMorgan Chase actually launched its own cryptocurrency in 2019.
When it comes to utilizing cutting-edge technology and developing new customer products, there is no doubt that the U.S. banking industry is a global leader. They make money and know how to use it.
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