Small business banking: are great customer service and international wire transfers mutually exclusive?
October 5, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Seeking new bank for our growing small business. Our priorities are great customer service and seamless international wire transfers.

I'm looking for recommendations for customer-service oriented banks with a branch in San Francisco.

My business partner and I prefer credit unions and small banks for our personal use due to the lower fees, great customer service, and the fact that the money gets reinvested in our local community.

However, a growing percentage of our business comes from international clients who want to pay via wire transfer. This has proven to be a cluster f*** with our current bank (New Resource Bank), because they receive the funds via an intermediary (Wells Fargo). We've had screw-ups with nearly every transfer and have had a number of payments returned to our clients due to them being labelled incorrectly, or something. It's happened with enough different clients that we are pretty sure it's our bank that is the problem, not our clients being dumb.

So we're looking for a bank with that small town feel that is big enough to be able to handle international wire transfers directly.

I'd love suggestions for banks that provide good service to small businesses, and/or can handle international payments seamlessly. I recognize that getting both together may not be possible, but that's our starting point.

Bonus questions: Is there something in US banking regulations that makes wire transfers so much more difficult here then they are in Europe? Do we need a massive bank in order to get those seamless transfers we need?
posted by paddingtonb to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I will be watching this thread with interest because my company needs a new bank like whoa.

I can tell you one thing, though: the answer is NOT Fifth Third.

I'm considering Citibank, based solely on how great they are to me (as a small-income nonbusiness person), but we haven't done any real research yet.
posted by phunniemee at 11:23 AM on October 5, 2012

Unrelated, but you are aware of how wire transfers are used for draining commercial accounts in the US, that there are a host of trojans that are specifically tailored to attack businesses like yours ? I think you should seriously add "high level of security for internet and wire transfers" to your list as well.

(and that as a commercial account holder, you have very few protections versus a individual account)
posted by k5.user at 11:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: k5.user - that is totally related and very helpful. I assume that part of the reason we're running into so much trouble actually getting paid is the security hoops our bank is making our clients jump through.

Follow-up question: how can we make things easier for our European clients if we are at such a high security risk due to their preferred payment method?

We're talking about payments in the $1,000-$20,000 range, so credit cards aren't always realistic. (Assume the companies we're dealing with are major corporations and there are longstanding personal relationships at play which give us personal confidence that we're not being scammed)
posted by paddingtonb at 11:48 AM on October 5, 2012

I don't know about the incoming wire-transfer as much as the out-going. The trojans would look to get on your system (phishing, drive bye, etc), grab your on-line banking credentials, and then either add bogus people to payroll or otherwise initiate transfers out of your account. And with wire transfers, as soon as it is sent, it is as good as gone. Many banks offer very few security measures (eg maybe a RSA token, but the trojans can grab it when you type it in) and also many banks don't follow their own procedures (like calling you up before wiring the money). Add in the bad guys can spoof your phone # and pretend to be you when calling the bank.

Brian Krebs researches/writes about this security area.
posted by k5.user at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2012

What first came to mind was BMO Harris. They're based in Chicago, but are owned by the Bank of Montreal. International transactions are supposed to be one of their specialties.

I also know someone who works at their HQ and it doesn't sound nearly as soul sucking as working for other banks or financial institutions. I like to assume banking with them would also be non soul-sucking And phunniemee is totally right - Fifth Third is never the answer. Never.
posted by youngergirl44 at 4:52 PM on October 5, 2012

I run the business side for several small businesses. One of which uses Bank of America--total fail. Do not use them. We operate about 4-5 million dollars through them a year and they couldn't care less about us.

Conversely, I use US Bank for all of our other business accounts, and I've found them to be wonderful. You want to get signed up with the Private Client Reserve Account. This gives you an actual, live person you can call for bank transactions or issues. I actually have a person I can email with a wire request, and then they call me and confirm I am the person who requested the wire and other pertinent details. I could also set up the key fob thing, but haven't needed to yet. I used to use a local bank, but I had to go to a national bank when I moved and needed banking in many locations throughout the country. I've found US Bank has treated me like a local bank did. I don't know about the international wires though, all our business is within the US. If you'd like me to try to get the name of someone at the Private Client Reserve in San Francisco, memail me and I'll ask my person.
posted by fyrebelley at 9:18 PM on October 5, 2012

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