07 June 2007

TD Bank Extends Branch Banking Hours

The Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick, 7 June 2007

The Royal Scotia Toronto-Dominion National Commerce Bank of Montreal stands ready to serve you.

We have six major banking institutions in this country, but to customers they're simply a monolith known as "the banks." How challenging it must be, then, for each of the six to reach out to people and explain why it above all others deserves their business.

At Toronto-Dominion Bank's TD Canada Trust division, the pitch to customers is all about customer service. "You have to focus on the few things that make a difference, and we think that's mostly about service and convenience," Tim Hockey, TD's head of personal banking, said in a recent interview after sitting in on some consumer focus groups in Ottawa. "It's superb execution of things like delivering great service, screwing up less often, having great locations, having great hours, not charging as many fees. It's no one thing."

Yesterday, TD moved ahead with its service-first strategy by saying it will start opening more than 800 branches at 8 a.m. on Monday through Saturday instead of 9 a.m., starting Nov. 1.

Other banks are trying different approaches to connect with customers. For example, Bank of Montreal announced last week it will offer Air Miles reward points to customers who make debit transactions using their BMO client cards. The bank used unusually direct language in a press release about its intentions for this new program.

"Our No. 1 priority is to attract new customers and build lasting relationships with them," Lynne Kilpatrick, BMO's senior vice-president of personal banking, was quoted as saying. "The introduction of this exciting new program will set BMO apart from our competition."

Royal Bank of Canada has focused on products and fees in trying to build customer loyalty. RBC recently introduced a high-rate, no-fee savings account similar to the one ING Direct has popularized, and last month it began offering a multi-product rebate that reduces or even eliminates your monthly banking fees if you have several products with the bank.

It may sound as if TD is focusing on a nebulous ideal of good service, while BMO and RBC have taken a more tangible, money-in-your hand approach. But BMO and RBC are essentially trying to buy loyalty, an approach where the value to customers is highly subjective.

You get a single Air Miles point at BMO for every $40 in debit card transactions, although you can step up the pace if you use a BMO Air Miles MasterCard and have multiple lines of business at the bank.

RBC will lower the $12 monthly fee of its Signature No Limit Banking plan to $8 if you have two or more of a product list that comprises mortgages, home-equity credit lines, Visa cards and registered or non-registered investments held at RBC (not one of its brokerage subsidiaries). If you opt for a stripped-down version of the No Limit Account that offers unlimited use of electronic banking, then you can eliminate the charge altogether through the multi-product rebate.

TD's Mr. Hockey said the bank's extensive customer polling has told it that people don't distinguish between banks much on the basis of products, while the effect of fees is tough to gauge. He said he hasn't seen much anger at all about bank fees in focus groups, but people do indicate they're willing to make certain tradeoffs for lower fees. One tradeoff they won't make, according to Mr. Hockey, is to get lower fees in exchange for giving up better service.

Banks are big on consumer research and they always have data to back up whatever direction they take or point they make. Sometimes, you have to wonder if the results are authentic, or if they've been manufactured through questions designed to produce answers the banks want to hear.

And yet, Mr. Hockey's conviction that service is the key is obviously sincere and successful to the extent that TD has been ranked No. 1 on customer satisfaction by the respected consumer research firm J.D. Power. It's also worth noting that TD's stock is the second-best performer of the Big Six over the past three years (RBC is in front by a fair bit) and the top performer year to date.

This brings us back to the question of what's the best way for a bank to distinguish itself. Mr. Hockey argues strongly for service. "This is the winning strategy in the long term," he said. "Price can be matched in six seconds, while products can be matched in six-weeks to six-months. Service is difficult to match. It takes lots of energy."

If you value good service at your bank branch, TD is committed to giving you what you want. For innovative products and lower fees, check out BMO and RBC.

The harder you look these days, the more it seems the Royal Scotia Toronto-Dominion National Commerce Bank of Montreal is history.

Two Banks, Two Pitches

Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada have recently introduced a couple of novel pitches to attract and keep customers. Here are some details.

BMO: The concept: Offer Air Miles travel reward points to customers when using BMO client cards, and bump up the earnable miles for people who have various other products at the bank.

Who wins: Avid Air Miles collectors, of which there are many.

RBC: The concept: Give customers a discount on their monthly account fees if they have multiple lines of business with the bank.

Who wins: Loyal RBC customers.
The Globe and Mail, David George-Cosh, 6 June 2007

Toronto-Dominion Bank announced Wednesday that it will extend its branch hours across the country.

Starting Nov. 1, more than 800 branches of TD Canada Trust will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Additionally, more than 900 branches will now be open every Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Branches remain closed on Sundays.

“Longer hours have been a very popular feature of the service we offer to customers,” said Tim Hockey, co-chairman of TD Canada Trust.

TD Canada Trust already has the longest branch hours in Canada. Branches will now be open a total of 62 hours a week, an increase of 50 per cent across the branch network.

“We try to give our customers more of what they love, so we decided to make our service even more convenient for them,” added Mr. Hockey.

TD says the extra branch hours will also help to create new job opportunities in communities.

TD branches currently open 9 a.m. Monday to Saturday and close at 4 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 3 p.m. on Saturday.