Your banker is there to talk to


At a time when mobile services and internet banking are all the rage, the question naturally arises: What is the benefit of a brick-and-mortar bank and face-to-face contact with your banker?

Without a doubt, the electronic services that allow us to bank from home and on the go through our computers and mobile devices have made banking easier and more convenient. But just like the 24-hour ATMs that were considered revolutionary for bank consumers decades ago, today's remote banking services only go so far.

Yes, we all use them. Yes, we all benefit from them. But most of us also experience times in our lives when connections with real people at a real bank — and especially a bank close to home — can make a real difference.

Those times usually involve making a major purchase, such as a home or a car. Most of us need to borrow funds and assume debt to make those large purchases. But a range of other life needs and circumstances can drive home the need for a conversation with a banker and the value of establishing a long-term, in-person banking relationship. Some of these include:

Establishing a savings plan ... and the discipline to stick with it. For many of us, saving to get ahead can seem like an impossible task. Each month after the bills are paid, there's hardly enough left, and that doesn't even include a small amount set aside for a meal out or other fun.

But sitting down with a banker can offer new perspective through the discipline of establishing a budget. Your banker also can help you find the discipline to stick with your new budget through tools such as an automatic savings withdrawal from your checking account or a savings account connected to your employer's paycheck-deposit program.

Creating a savings program for college, retirement or health care. These are similar but more specific savings discussions where your banker can help with tailored tools to help you get the most out of saving to cover costs of children's college education, your retirement years and your family's health care needs. You banker knows about these tools, which can provide benefits such as tax advantages through these specific forms of savings.

Determining which tools are right for you requires a conversation and an understanding by your banker about your circumstances, as well as the ability to adjust as your needs change when children get closer to college age or you approach retirement. This is where the long-term value of working with a banker who knows you and stays connected with you can be invaluable.

Starting a business or making changes in an existing business. Many of us operate our own businesses and some of us would like to start one. When you go into business, your banker can be one of your best resources, providing help establishing business plans that drive the firm's finances as well as monitoring progress in achieving those goals. Your banker also can step in to help with loans, lines of credit and bank services such as merchant credit-card processing and programs that regularly sweep revenue into specific accounts for safekeeping and organization.

Most business people stay connected with their business bankers for an important reason: They appreciate the help and guidance and banker can provide, especially when it comes to finding new solutions and perspective that company owners often need when they are so busy running their businesses.

A banker can help in many other ways, in your personal and business life. At a time of low interest rates, for example, a discussion about whether it makes sense to refinance your home or car loan, your personal loan or your business loan can prove surprisingly useful.

Yes, most banks have the electronic banking services that all of us use and appreciate. But like ATMs of years ago, those services go only so far in providing financial help when you need it. There's still a lot of value in connecting with your banker in person.