Why do people choose one financial institution over another? For consumers in the Chippewa Valley, there are many options – large and small, local and national – if you’re in the market for a checking account, a small business loan, or a mortgage.
From bank to bank, these products may look very similar – but the services surrounding them do not. Nor does the level of personal attention you’ll get from a financial institution.
Eau Claire-based Charter Bank, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, prides itself on a personal touch you may not find elsewhere.
“I think it comes down to knowing your customers,” said Connie Pedersen, the bank’s first vice president. “It’s almost like Cheers – everybody knows your name when you walk through the door or come through the drive-up. And I think customers really do appreciate that personal service. We’re local – all of our people are invested in the community.”
Pedersen, who has spent more than 27 years in the banking industry, the last five of them with Charter, said fast decision-making is one advantage of working with a locally based bank.
“Things that sometimes can take a lot longer elsewhere we can get done in a fairly quick timeframe (at Charter),” Pedersen said. Charter’s office at 1010 W. Clairemont Ave. – not an anonymous building in another state – is the corporate headquarters where decisions about issuing loans and other matters are made.
“They can get what they want right here at Charter Bank,” Pedersen said of business and individual customers, “but in addition they’re getting that one-on-one, single point of contact, personal service which I think is important to people.”
THE HUMAN FACTOR
And that individualized service isn’t just limited to in-person transactions at the bank’s lobby or drive-thru. Customers making use of any of the bank’s digital tools are welcome to get advice and assistance from real, live human beings.
“We differentiate ourselves from the personal service perspective,” said Erik LeMay, the bank’s chief information officer. “Somebody will actually walk you through how to set these services up and use them.”
Likewise, phone calls to the bank’s main number are answered by a person, not a piece of voice-activated software that sends you through a frustrating loop of menus. “It’s nice to be able to just call and have somebody answer the phone and get you to the right department,” LeMay said.
Nonetheless, Charter Bank offers a full suite of digital products for both personal and business customers. On the business side, Charter offers a treasury management solution available online and in a mobile app. And individual Charter Bank customers can use online and mobile tools such as remote deposit capture, aggregating accounts from multiple financial institutions under one login, and making person-to-person digital payments. (That latter can be done via Zelle, a service similar to Venmo, except it is provided – and monitored for suspicious activity – by the bank.) Customers can also attach their Charter account to a digital wallet, allowing for fast, contactless payments via their smartphones at participating businesses – something that’s become increasingly sought-after and common during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have a lot to offer,” LeMay said. “A checking account’s a checking account, but it’s all the things that go around it.”
Of course, Charter Bank offers more than just traditional checking accounts. Consider Premium Rewards Checking, a consumer checking account that offers 2% APY interest on balances up to $15,000. Even as interest rates have fallen nationwide, Charter Bank has maintained the 2% rate for Premium Rewards Checking, Pedersen said. It’s the kind of benefit that she says creates loyal customers.
Charter Bank and its employees like to reflect that loyalty back toward their communities they serve through philanthropic efforts both on a corporate and individual level, helping nonprofit groups such as Feed My People Food Bank, Junior Achievement, the YMCA, and many others.
The dedication to service goes to the top: President and CEO Paul Kohler recently became board chair of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, which serves banks large and small across the state. And if that isn’t reason enough to celebrate, Charter Bank recently reached a major financial milestone, exceeding $1 billion in total assets, Pedersen said.
“I think there’s a real family culture here at Charter Bank, and we continue to grow,” she said.
1010 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire (as well as Chaska and Chanhassen, Minnesota)