Bank Tellers - Your Company's Best Friends

Metro Bank launch - tellers

Since I complained about banks last week, I thought I'd say something nice about them this week.

This little tip may surprise you coming from me. I tend to do things electronically, with as little human interaction as possible. To be fair, the world of bookkeeping isn't usually filled with extroverts. 

Get to know your bank teller

Although this tip can apply to personal accounts too, this is especially important for entrepreneurs. As we all know, banks can be frustrating places to deal with. There are always extra fees and seemingly arbitrary rules that slow you down left and right. Having a friend "on the inside" can really help you bust through those barriers. 

Start early

Don't wait until a problem arises and then try to quickly make a friend. Since all people can see through this and tellers = people, this isn't going to work. Do as much of your business banking in person, and be genuinely friendly with everyone who helps you. Based on the lines I wait in, friendliness isn't the norm. 

Stay local

As often as possible, do your business banking in person at your home branch. At least in Canada, your home branch is where the important decisions are handled. It doesn't matter who you know at the branch across town, they're still going to put a hold on that cheque you need today. 

Why bother?

Aside from the fact that being decent is just the right thing to do, there's a lot of banking rules that are left up to the discretion of your home branch. A few examples are:

  1. Cheque holds - Let's say your client gives you a deposit by cheque, and need to turn around and buy product with that money right away. Most banks will hold those funds for a few days, but your home branch can use their discretion to release those funds early.
  2. NSF - In most big banks, when a cheque clears and there aren't enough funds to cover it, it is immediately returned. However, if you get to know your account manager, they will often contact you and give you the opportunity to come in and make a deposit before bouncing the cheque. Don't abuse this generosity.
  3. "Cashback" - Similar to #1, most bank accounts have an optional feature that allows you to immediately withdraw a certain amount of money before they hold the funds. For example, if I have $500 of cashback, and I deposit a cheque for $1000, I can pull out $500 in the moment, and the rest is held until they clear the sender's account. These limits are usually reviewed electronically on a yearly basis, but if a friendly teller sees you running up against those limits regularly, they can increase those limits for you right away.
  4. Daily spending limits - Running a business without cheques (smart) means you're constantly using your debit or credit card. Doing that with a $500 daily Interac limit is tricky. Some banks have strict universal limits. Scotiabank, for example, doesn't go above $1000/day for e-transfers, wheras TD goes up to $3000. However, tellers and account managers can bump that $500 limit up to the banks' maximum when necessary.

Sure, just being nice isn't going to change bank policy. If you're a credit risk, your favourite teller won't double the limit on your Visa. Just remember, be genuine...being nice rarely results in bad things happening to your bank account. And, if there's one thing I am certain of, something will go wrong at the bank. Whether it's a computer glitch or human error, you're going to need help with something in your account. Being a familiar face when you ask for help will go a long way to getting you back on track.