Reasons to leave the banking system NOW
Commerce Bank: A Cool Culture Reduced to a 'Footprint'
Posted by Christopher Stevenson
I'm feeling a bit blue today. Why? When I woke up this morning, the first thing I read on my Google home page was that Commerce Bancorp is being acquired by Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD). It shouldn't really bother me; heck, there isn't even a Commerce Bank in Wisconsin. And I should have expected it, since former CEO Vernon Hill's indiscretions came to light. Nevertheless, it's hanging over my day the way the stench of sweaty kids and old fries looms in a McDonald's PlayPlace. But, why should I care?
I like the Commerce Bank model. Commerce is one of the few financial institutions that has broken through the white noise of financial services. They've made a name for themselves, not because of their guaranteed low rates (their rates stink) or their ability to serve all people (they advertise their crummy rates to help folks who are looking for good rates "opt-out" of their services), but because of their service culture.
They've built a culture around making banking a retail experience, calling their branches "stores." They set the standard for longer hours and their staff is cheerful (one of their hiring standards is that new hires must smile in a resting state). And they've been the focus of a Harvard Business School case study and included in Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre's Mavericks at Work. Not many FIs can claim the amount of positive press that Commerce has earned. It's a model I wish CUs had figured out first (minus the crooked CEO, of course).
The question lingers: Will Commerce Bank lose its identity in this acquisition? It seems to me that TD would be foolish to mess with success, but you never know. How much tolerance will TD have for the radical step-child? Will Commerce become just another mediocre player? Could be.
When I read the press release, I saw nothing about Commerce's unique culture or strategy. What I saw was this:
"The combination of Commerce with TD Banknorth doubles the scale of our U.S. banking business and accelerates our transformation to a leading North American financial institution," said Ed Clark, President and Chief Executive Officer, TD Bank Financial Group. "Commerce brings an impressive geographic footprint and market share in a contiguous region and a complementary North American retail banking business model."
Size. Footprint. Market share. Doesn't seem like TD has much interest in Commerce for what made Commerce great, does it? Well, on the bright side, if Commerce goes mediocre, it's one less player standing in credit unions' way.
Hmm, my day just got a little brighter.
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