When I received my SunTrust checking account statement a couple of months ago, I read a notice that it would be raising the minimum balance requirement from $500 to $1500 to avoid a fee; as an alternative, one could use a direct deposit arrangement. I thought to myself, “here we go again” (as also observed by some coverage in the media, such as this article).
I originally opened that checking account several years ago when SunTrust offered an employee program through a previous university employer. I did use direct deposit for my payroll checks, for years, until SunTrust decided it wanted to convert the account, eliminate benefits that had been attractive, impose a $5 debit card fee, and otherwise come to a whole new arrangement. As per the article link above, several banks were attempting the same thing, but consumer “fury” caused SunTrust to back down.
However, I made new arrangements, too. I opened credit union accounts (checking, savings, kids’ accounts, a safe deposit box, et cetera). I set-up everything I needed elsewhere, and my account relationship with SunTrust is now just a hollow shell. At the time that I was opening the credit union accounts I had a conversation to the effect that “business was booming,” spurred on by change in terms notices, new fees, and the like, from traditional banks. I couldn’t help but notice other differences in my “brand experience,” comparing SunTrust to the credit union. With my SunTrust account I set-up an overdraft protection account by enduring a process that was not dissimilar from my point of view to a mortgage application. The paperwork was astounding, I thought, at the time. With the credit union, it was practically verbal by comparison, for an overdraft protection amount that was more than triple the size of the one at SunTrust.
SunTrust continues to send me (as a valued and long-term customer) various offers for a plethora of banking services. But, there shall be no credit card, mortgage, investment, or other account.
Oh, and that car loan offer, it “backfired”–for SunTrust–too.
Here’s the part I really find interesting. The PR “spin” from the banks is all “poor, pitiful us.” The media seem to just take whatever is sent via email from bankers and reprint verbiage that reflects this smoke and mirrors spin. For instance, in the article linked above the following quote is presented:
“The pricing changes reflect the costs of doing business and staying competitive with other banks, as well as balancing the needs of its customers, SunTrust spokesman Hugh Suhr stated in an email.”
However, as can be seen in documents posted on SunTrust’s “Recent Earnings & Conference Presentations” page, the numbers I have presented below (a screenshot from this quarterly report) tell a different story than that of “woe is me“:
The aforementioned article also states that “over the last few years, changing financial regulations have cut into the revenue of big banks like SunTrust.” Maybe. But is it possible that “over the years bankers have threatened that regulations [against outrageous abuses, corruption, incompetence and greed, e.g., the mortgage meltdown] would be bad and that they are now making good on that promise by using every possible excuse to raise fees in the name of declining revenues”? (One source of declining revenues might be people migrating to credit unions, you think?)
Reporters: DO YOUR JOB! RESEARCH!