You’re about to read the first in a series of reports that capture my commentary as I open and maintain checking accounts at 10 different banks. If you’re a banker (and I hope you are—otherwise, what are you doing here?), you’re likely shivering with anticipation at the chance to get an inside look at other banks.

Trust me. You will, and you won’t be disappointed.

But before we begin, I need you to understand my qualifications to write this piece. Surprisingly, I’m qualified because I’m NOT. When I began my journey down this path, Mabus Agency was making a transition into offering creative services within the financial industry. So when Josh Mabus slapped an envelope stuffed with $100 bills down on my desk, I figured it was my severance. You see, financially speaking, I was the least experienced person on the team.

Before coming to Mabus Agency in 2016, where I’ve spent time writing for several banks and graduated ABA’s bank marketing school, I was a certifiable financial screw-up. “Budget” is a French word, and like most other French words, I didn’t understand it. Generally, I tried to spend less than I made. Or at least, I hoped I’d spent less than I made by the end of the month. You could say I walked by faith, not by sight.

And that was an improvement from my early 20s.

Luckily, I’ve matured in the last half-decade. I’m a married man now, and a dad, and a homeowner. I’ve salvaged my credit score, but the dark cloud of my past financial irresponsibility still hovers right above my head most days in the form of student loans and general financial paranoia. Being a recently recovered financial flop comes with a bit of self-doubt in these areas.

Despite my recovery, I was surprised the envelope stuffed with cash didn’t include a pink slip. Josh didn’t fire me. Instead, he asked me to do something that no one does.

“Riley,” he said. “I want you to open checking accounts at 10 different banks, and I want you to write about it.”

“But no one shops banks! They just bank wherever’s closest to their home or work!” I cried, eyeing the envelope flush with cash. “Plus, I’m a financial flop! Let this cup pass from me!”

“Cool it,” Josh said. “That’s exactly why you’re perfect for it. Most people are intimidated by banks and struggle with one type of debt or another. You happen to be the only one that works for me.”

It was as if a cloud had lifted.

He was right. Most people I know don’t know asses from elbows when it comes to finances—yet banks provide the financial underpinning for our nation. It always surprises me when someone doesn’t have a bank account—unless it’s one of my doomsday-prepper distant relatives who are holed up out in the sticks.

When it comes to money—my money, no less—I’ve always felt like other people have the power. I’ve always thought banks have all the money because I’m too incompetent to hang onto it myself.

I didn’t really believe that I had any part to play in my financial future, so I would just do my best to maintain a positive account balance. And if I screw up? Well, whatever punishment I receive, I deserve. I’ve brought it on myself.

Josh knew something about me (and the world) that too few bankers seem to acknowledge. He knew I was like most of my fellow Americans who know very little about banking and don’t really care to learn. He knew this education would vastly accelerate my knowledge of banking—and he was right. With 1,000 bucks comes great responsibility. I had to learn to keep from freaking out over explaining what I did with the company’s money.

I gained a clarity I never would have experienced on my own.

For the first time, I realized customers have the power with banks, just as they have power in any other industry. And if most people are like me and feel the way I feel, what are banks doing to change that perception?

What are banks doing to make me like them? Most importantly, what are they doing to make me more financially literate?


Through this journey, I found out. And I can’t wait to share this knowledge with you.

I’ll peel back the layers of the proverbial onion to find what’s right with banks and what’s wrong with them. What truly differentiates within this parity industry? I’ll pick on the bad habits of a couple and celebrate the wins of others. Hopefully, we’ll all wind up better for the process.

So what’s happened so far?

I took my boss’s cash and opened 10 personal checking accounts at 10 different banks that vary in asset size and location. A lot of them surprised me, in good ways and bad. I learned that what makes a bank stand out has little to do with products or prices and saw how a bank’s strong sense of identity translates into customer loyalty.

As I said earlier, I did something your clients haven’t done—that you haven’t done. I shopped banks. We’ve found that most clients just assume their banking experience would be the same as what they’d find at any other bank.

I learned a lot throughout this experience, and I’m breaking it down into bite-size, categorical explorations. I’ll take you on this insightful journey, but I’m withholding the names of institutions.

I encourage you to sign up for our email list to follow along and not miss an opportunity to add my newfound knowledge to yours.

Most importantly, I got to experience how banks make their clients feel—how YOUR bank makes YOUR clients feel. Even if your clients bank with you out of sheer convenience, and even if it takes a LOT to make someone change banks, do you really want your clients—your lifeblood—to hate your guts? To talk shit about your dumb app, your whiney tellers, and your days-long processing time?

Over my next 10 blog posts, I’ll show you the good, the bad, and the ugly of my account-opening experience. You might feel a surge of pride while reading something good and think, “My bank does that!” Or you might grimace at something bad and think, “Guilty.”

Most likely, you’ll do both.

Click here to follow this project and see more of the series.

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