Are Banking and Bookselling Too Similar?
Recently, the last major independent new-book seller here closed its store. It had three locations at one time. Around the middle of 2009, Waldenbooks left town. We’re left with two Barnes & Noble locations. Another two bookstores in my favorite shopping mall in Omaha also disappeared during the past year.
These brick-and-mortar bookstores are falling because of competition from online retailers. Not just heavyweight Amazon. There are plenty of booksellers online.
Of course, if you read popular bestsellers you can pick up the latest paperback edition at discount stores, drug stores and supermarkets. Why go out of your way to visit a real bookstore?
Will brick-and-mortar banks and credit unions feel the same pinch as the bookstores?
People continue to gravitate toward online banking and bill pay. They’re beginning to open accounts online instead of going to the lobby. As consumers get more and more accustomed to those services, and as computer-savvy teens and pre-teens become old enough to use checking accounts, will more consumers forego brick-and-mortar financial institutions to bank entirely online?
A newspaper ad caught my attention because of the bank name…one I hadn’t heard before…EverBank. At first, I thought it was a new community bank opening its doors. Only a week before I read a news story about a new bank in town.
When I saw the name of the checking account the ad promoted, FreeNet Checking, I changed my mind. A quick online search told me EverBank is based in Florida. A long way from Nebraska. The local address in the ad was a wealth management company. You could open the checking account there, as well as online.
I don’t know how extensive EverBank’s network is across the country, but this is the first financial organization I’ve heard of that offers checking accounts at local non-bank offices.
There are already a few online-only financial organizations. Now here’s one that also has a modified presence in local communities.
Like online booksellers are forcing storefront bookstores out of business, will online bankers someday soon make local banking offices rare?
Community banks and credit unions should track this trend. It might be a good idea to become more involved in the community and more relied upon by local consumers so that even if online competitors from elsewhere cut into the local market, the brick-and-mortar businesses are still able to thrive.