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2010 Best Consumer Bank: Bank of the West

Author: Cerrissa MacNichols
May, 2010 Issue
“We’re very pleased and honored to win this award once again,” says Senior Vice President Ed Bonavia, retail banking manager for Bank of the West’s Northern California Division. “It’s great to be recognized over the past number of years by NorthBay biz readers, who seem to know the same things about us that J.D. Power and Associates discovered in its surveys when it ranked us ‘Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Retail Banking in the West’ in 2008, 2009 and 2010.”

Bank of the West is no newcomer to the North Bay. Now more than 135 years old, it’s expanded from its early San Jose roots, first across the Bay Area and, in more recent years, into 18 additional states. With $60 billion in assets, more than 700 commercial and consumer banking locations and more than 9,000 employees, the bank has found a way to sustain a strong focus on superior customer service.

“In the North Bay,” Bonavia says, “we have 19 branches and slightly more than 200 employees. Most of our managers have been with us for at least five years, and several have been with us for 20 or more. Having these seasoned employees, who really know and are involved in their communities, makes it easier for us to develop customer relationships and build trust and rapport. When you call a branch, our standard is that no inbound phone call is allowed to ring more than three times. You don’t have to choose the remote call center, as with so many larger banks, but you can have it that way, if you want. Or you can bank online, face-to-face or any combination.”

Bank of the West’s wide range of services attracts consumers and businesses alike. Recently upgraded ATM functions and improved branch service software make it easier for customers to do business. Consumers are offered checking, savings, CDs, debit and credit cards, online banking, wealth and trust services, mortgages and consumer loans. “We make customer service our highest priority and, in fact, have begun to measure our success by the percentage of our customers who actively recommend us to family, friends and others. Our customers tend to stay with us over the long haul. In many cases, we’re their only financial institution. More than 90 percent of our customers say they’re ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied.’”

For small businesses, there’s business checking, cash management, merchant services, loans and lines of credit, and SBA lending. In 2009, Bank of the West won prestigious awards for business cash management and other services from Greenwich Associates, a national consulting firm. The company also specializes in areas such as agribusiness, commercial real estate and construction, health care, government agencies and municipalities, and equipment financing. Bank of the West is the third largest agricultural bank lender in the country, and its premium wine specialty group is based in Napa. In five years, the bank’s portfolio of growers and vintners has grown five-fold—strong evidence that customer service excellence extends beyond the branch.






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