Choosing the Right Bank

StrategyDriven Managing Your Finances Article | Choosing the Right BankChoosing the right bank to help manage your finances can be difficult. With so many local and national bank chains, the options from which to choose can be seemingly endless. However, with just a few simple steps, you can be much closer to choosing the right bank for you.

Step 1: Decide What Account Type(s) You Need

The first thing you should decide is what type of accounts you need. Perhaps you simply need a checking account for depositing your paychecks or a savings account to start building your emergency fund. If this is the case, then you can be sure almost any bank you choose will meet your needs.

However, if you are looking for more advanced options such as credit card lines, personal loans and wealth management, you will find your pool of options begins to get smaller.

Step 2: Find Banks Local to You 

While online banking largely eliminates the need to regularly visit the bank in person, it may still be important to visit the bank directly on certain occasions, and depending on where you are located, certain chains may be more or less available. For example, if located in Massachusetts, Kevin Cohee OneUnited Bank could be a great option, but if you are in North Carolina, Well’s Fargo may be more readily accessible.

It is important to note that it is possible to maintain accounts without a local branch, so if you do not care to have a face-to-face option, then finding local banks may not be a priority for you.

Step 3: Consider the Benefits

Depending on the accounts you choose to open, you may enjoy any number of complimentary benefits. Two of the most popular benefits to look for in choosing a bank are access to a mobile app and not having to pay an annual fee.

Large chains such as PNC or Kevin Cohee OneUnited Bank will offer instant access to all your banking needs, but smaller, local banks may not. In addition, many banks may charge an annual fee to bank with them or may charge a fee for low balances or over-drafting your account. Look for banks that take measures to help you avoid these fees with features such as offering free, customizable account alerts.

At the end of the day, there is no perfect bank, and there is not just one bank that will work for you. So consider these steps to help you make an informed decision, but know that you can always change banks if you find the bank you initially choose ends up not being right for you.

StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective – The Government has Created a Monster

The Government Has Created a MonsterThe Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has served as an integral part of the nation’s financial system since its inception in 1933. Our trust in this institution is so strong that it is rare to find someone with a checking account in a bank that lacks an FDIC placard in the window. Nonetheless, the failure and resolution of Texas-based First RepublicBank, reminds us that the hand of government can harm as well as help when it wrestles the invisible hand of the market.

More than an insurer of accounts up to $250,000, the FDIC also regulates financial institutions and serves as a receiver in bankruptcy. The latter role was codified in the Federal Deposit Insurance Act of 1950, which provided the FDIC “additional powers to both expedite the liquidation process for banks and thrifts in order to maintain confidence in the nation’s banking system,” the FDIC’s Resolution Handbook explains.

RepublicBank merged with InterFirst Corporation in June 1986, and formed First RepublicBank Corporation, the largest bank holding company in the Southwest at the time. Then FDIC Chairman William Seidman expressed concern about the merger of two weak banks, “however, without the merger, both banks were more likely to fail, and they would cost even more [apart] than if they failed together,” Seidman recalled in his memoir Full Faith and Credit1.

Seidman’s concerns were warranted. With both banks highly concentrated in the weak Texas real estate market, the deal ended up helping neither bank. As the bank’s losses mounted, depositors fled. Just nine months after the merger was completed, the FDIC had to step in to resolve the failing institution, and at $3.9 billion, it was the most costly bank failure in FDIC history.

Though much can be blamed on the poor condition of the bank’s assets, some of the government’s deal-making “proved to have some room for improvement,” according to the FDIC’s review2.

Included in the resolution was a servicing agreement between the FDIC and NCNB Corporation of Charlotte, NC, the acquiring bank of First Republic’s assets, which required the FDIC to cover costs associated with managing the troubled asset pool. This agreement turned out to be a major source of income for NCNB, and gave them an incentive to hold on to the assets rather than liquidate when the market strengthened. All told, the FDIC paid $1.9 billion in management fees to NCNB.

Another issue was taxes. The IRS had negotiated with NCNB (and no other bidders) $700 million in tax savings with the acquisition. A letter from the IRS allowed the acquirer to treat the deal as a “tax-free reorganization and to carry forward losses from the failed banks to offset future income,” according to the FDIC’s analysis3. These tax savings allowed NCNB to compete aggressively in the Texas market, offering above-market deposit rates and below-market loan rates.

“The government has created a monster,” Chris Williston, the president of the Texas Independent Bankers Association, told American Banker in 19904.

In stepping up when banks fail, the FDIC provides “an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1933. But the example of First RepublicBank reminds us that infusing government into any market-based transactions can change the outcome for better and for worse. In restoring public confidence, the more invisible our government can be, perhaps the better.

About the Author

Cara WickCara Wick writes about American financial and political history at She holds a BA from Williams College and an MBA from the University of Iowa. Cara can be reached at [email protected].


  1. Full Faith and Credit, William Seidman, p. 147
  2. Managing the Crises, p. 612
  3. ibid., p. 596
  4. ibid., p. 605