Last month, Scotiabank purchased the on line bank ING Direct Canada for $3.1 billion. This un-bank as they called themselves started in 1997 and grew to 1.8 million customers through great savings rates, which were often double that of the big banks, competitive mortgage rates, and a lot of innovation.
Around the world our six Canadian no-service big banks are knows as being rather conservative. In some ways that was a blessing in the banking meltdown, but they’re also turtles in any innovation and modernization. Recently we talked about the technology that lets you just scan a cheque on your smart phone and have it instantly show up in your account. No need to head to the bank, just scan and done. Well, two of the banks had never heard of this when I contacted them. I guess they don’t watch TV as almost every US bank now has this in place already.
ING was instrumental in getting all North American banks to focus on on-line banking, customer service and the likes, or they still wouldn’t have much of it. Two of the biggest changes caused by ING’s success are just rolling out: Paypal, which everyone under age 30 is familiar with, is teaming up with Discover to become a bank. Plus, Amex and Wal Mart are in a joint partnership and will offer banking to the 40 million Americans who do not have any bank accounts. They’ll be able to get a pre-paid debit card, actual cheques, and be able to do all their transactions at any cashier in any Wal Mart. No fees, no overdrafts, no minimum balances – and it all started with ING leading the way.
Now our Canadian banks can slow down again, because one of them took out ING. Scotia won’t be continuing their operation and ING will disappear. Hopefully, if you were one of their customers, you’ll switch over to President’s Choice. Unfortunately it’s one of the only on-line banks left, even though they’re owned by CIBC.
Competition is great for us consumers. Unfortunately, another one bites the dust, and we’re all going to be worse off as a result. Scotia is betting they can retain most of these 1.8 million customers. But with all the banks, you have to remember that your loyalty will never ever be rewarded. The longer you deal with them, the more you’ll be taken for granted.
But the last thing we do is to shop around for a better rate, much lower service charges, or a place where it doesn’t take an appointment two days from now to see someone.