By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown News
Union Bank welcomed local business owners who use their services to their flagship location in Downtown San Diego on Fifth Avenue to tout their updated in-branch experience and relaunch their brand. Among the business clients was Priscilla Webb, the 92-year-old co-owner of Julian Hard Cider; the San Diego-based S&P 500 medical device company ResMed; and Hodad’s co-owner Shane Hardin.
The campaign will include television, radio, outdoor and digital ads featuring the signature line “Your Details Matter” to emphasize the bank’s personalized experience.
Brian Milton, head of Deposits and Business Strategy for Union Bank, shared some of the products the bank is promoting in its new marketing campaign. He said the bank focuses on rolling out new services customers are actually asking for, rather than chasing the next shiny object. For instance, Union Bank does not have an Alexa app allowing people to voice-bank using their Amazon Echo. The reason? Milton said that is not what the 150-year-old bank’s customers asked for. Instead, they pushed for a faster branch experience and less fees. To that end, the event showcased Express Banking kiosks, which will be used in many of the bank’s locations. However, San Diego may already be used to the automated banking experience, which has 80% of the capabilities of a teller and many more features than a typical ATM. San Diego is a test market for the bank because it has more branches located here than anywhere else. The kiosks have been at the Fifth Avenue location long enough for local customers to appreciate the new, streamlined experience.
Milton explained that earlier this year, the bank rolled out a new product and three months later, when business clients said it was too complex, they quickly pulled it. In all, the process took the course of a few months instead of what would typically be a year of planning and then offering a newer version of an already disliked product.
In a more welcomed move, the bank is now offering a Bank Freely personal checking account, which does not have monthly service charges, no minimum balance, no overdraft fees for overdrawn balances less than $5, and free ATM use. Milton said when people hear about the account, their first question is what’s the catch?
However, the executive said the change actually makes sense because it creates a positive, long-term relationship between the bank and customers. Milton said banks do not actually make money from these fees, so getting rid of them helps build trust so people will invest or get their mortgage through Union Bank.
For Milton, moving away from nickel and diming customers makes him feel a lot better about being in the industry. Customers, too, have positive feedback — the Bank Freely account has become wildly popular since rolling out this spring and now business clients are asking for their own version.
Milton described this as a return to more classic banking, as counterintuitive as that seems. In response to the changes, Kiplinger named Union Bank as the best regional bank for the West in 2019.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.