By Mark A. Rouleau
Today, I received a letter from a David L. Stein, executive vice president, Retail Banking for Associated Bank & Associated Banc-Corp, informing me they are closing the banking location I have used for nearly a quarter century, because they “regularly evaluate [their] operations to ensure [they] deliver the service and convenience [I] expect with the value [I] demand.” They go on to state this is because “it is increasingly difficult to continue to operate branches that are in close proximity to each other.” Prior to becoming an Associated Bank depositor, I used that facility back when it was still First Federal Savings & Loan of Rockford.
In an interview, Associated Bank’s President Phillip B. Flynn said “[o]ur track record where we have consolidated branches, as far as retaining customers, is in the very high 90 percent, and that’s what we expect this time.” (http://m.jsonline.com/newswatch/135777438.htm) So, without consulting their depositors, they figure they can close the Edgebrook Branch and force us to follow them to another location at a 90 percent rate. Sort of like the commercial on TV where they keep telling the guy at the ATM, “[y]ou can’t change the way banking works, just accept it.”
As a result of several other decisions of Associated Bank in past years, I had seriously questioned discontinuing my longtime relationship with the bank. However, because of the excellent and friendly service of all of the local branch employees at the Edgebrook Center Branch (1601 N. Alpine Road, Rockford), truly dedicated to customer/depositor service, I continued this relationship even though there is a very good hometown bank (Alpine Bank of Rockford) directly across the street. If Associated Bank’s “executive team” follows through on its decision to close the Edgebrook Center Branch, I will take both my business and personal accounts elsewhere, both because of convenience and the break-up of the outstanding staff they currently have at the Edgebrook Center Branch. I may not be able to change the way banking works, but I don’t have to accept it.
The banking industry in large part is homogenous, and outside of solvency, one bank is pretty much the same as another except for customer service and convenience. By closing the Edgebrook location, Associated is undermining those two distinguishing features, which have given them a competitive advantage at the Edgebrook location.
It is truly rare to have staff at any business who joyfully take care of us the way they do at the Edgebrook facility. I know that given the close proximity of hometown banks, the announced customer/depositor retention rate of 90 percent is unreasonably optimistic for this location, as many other customers will agree they don’t have to accept it, either.
I strongly urge readers who are depositors to let Mr. Flynn and Stein know they will take their banking business elsewhere if, Associated Bank follows through on its announced decision to close the Edgebrook Center Rockford branch.
Mark A. Rouleau is a local attorney.
From the Jan. 4-10, 2012, issue