Banks

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General advice on choosing a bank

Bryan Starbuck:

My $0.02 is that it depends if you want to optimize for, which is most commonly: a) ability to secure venture loans in the future, b) most efficient web banking, or c) something else.

Cliff E. Rudolph:

While the credit union model is great for personal banking, I would suggest you consider other options. Consider for a moment going into a credit union and trying to collateralize your IP for a loan. It's not going to happen at BECU.

Buzz Bruggeman:

The Test is not the bank but the banker. If they leave, follow them.
Twice since I have moved to Seattle, my banker has left the bank, each time it has been a hassle to re-build the relationship. Had my banker moved to another bank, I would have followed the banker.

Banks

Bank of America

http://www.bankofamerica.com/

Scott Ruthfield:

I've ended up working with Eugene Zelenyi (eugene.zelenyi@bankofamerica.com) at BOA- now at Westlake Center. He's great - hungry to build a small business clientele and to do good work for his people, calls me back right away, has opened accounts for some very low budget businesses, I haven't paid any fees, etc. Tell him I sent you.
When I haven't been able to go to Westlake and I've gone to somebody at a different branch, everything has been taken care of quickly and cleanly.

Chase

http://www.chase.com/

James Moore:

I'd like to dis-recommend Chase.
I had a fairly minor problem with them last month, and I needed to deposit a customer payment anyway, so I went into my local "branch" (85th and Greenwood).
Turns out it's not a branch, it's just an ATM with humans instead of hardware. The guy I talked to did exactly what I would have done from home: he got on the phone to customer service. And had the same poor experience I usually get from them, too, from what I heard of the conversation.

Columbia Bank

http://www.columbiabank.com/

Contacts:

  • Douang Nonthaveth, Nonthaveth@columbiabank.com, 253-859-3056

Cliff E. Rudolph: I'd also like to suggest Columbia Bank. They are one of the most financially strong local banks based in Washington and are trading at near 52 week highs (COLB). I'd give them high marks for service and financial strength.

First Mutual

http://www.firstmutual.com/

Home Street Bank

http://www.homestreetbank.com/

Key Bank

http://www.key.com/

Silicon Valley Bank

http://www.svb.com/

SVB is a bank that specializes in serving the banking needs of startups and the technology organization as a whole:

  • Comprehensive, competitively priced financial products and services for each stage of growth
  • Dedicated Service Representatives who work with Startups every day
  • Online commercial banking platform that accommodates multiple employees with varying permission levels; compatible with Quickbooks
  • Flexible Lending Solutions
  • Simplified Management of Company issued Stock and Options
  • Strong relationships with Angel and VC's

Contacts:

  • Geir Hansen, ghansen@svb.com, 206-342-7688
  • Nick Christian, nchristian@svb.com, 206-342-7603
  • Minh Le, mqle@svb.com, 206-342-7606

Buzz Bruggeman:

Geir and his team are great, but they have no local/retail presence, and FWIW, cashing a check drawn on SVB is impossible, you have to deposit it. Perhaps not a deal breaker, but also a hassle that they should find a way to resolve.

Union Bank

http://www.unionbank.com/

Viking Bank

http://www.vikingbank.com/

Geoff McNeely:

I've been using Viking Bank for 8 years. They call me when there are problems and they are extremely professional. They are small, headquartered in Ballard. I use the West Seattle branch. They have a branch in Bellevue right off I-405.
Their basic business checking is free, has a debit card and online access, and is suitable for most needs of a startup.
Did I mention they proactively call me if I have something about to overdraw and give me time to approve it or get money transferred rather than just rejecting it? Yeah, it's a good banking relationship.

Wells Fargo

http://www.wellsfargo.com/

Bryan Starbuck:

If you want the best ability to secure venture debt loans, then Sillicon Valley Bank is probably the best. (With a few other good ones here) If you want the best web banking, then I love Wells Fargo. I can get statements 7 years back. I can create an account for bookkeepers with limited access. Among other great benefits.

Marina Martin:

I've been an extremely happy Wells Fargo customer for going on 10 years now, and business banking with them for seven of those years.
My favorite feature is their account-to-account transfer that lets you immediately send an amount under $1,000 to another WF customer for free. I have a handful of clients who prefer to pay me this way, as they can skip the check-writing process but maintain the same electronic trail. Better, it means I get the money immediately and don't have to deposit any checks.
In my experience has superior check-depositing policies, if this is relevant to you. I recently did some account comparisons for a client who's running on very narrow margins, and needs his clients' checks to clear quickly so he can pay his own bills. His current, local bank was holding checks for *9* days even if they were drawn from THAT bank, and most other banks (including Key) had policies to hold checks for at least five days. In the three months since he switched to Wells, they haven't held a single check for more than one day, and so long as the funds are shown as pending, he can write checks against the money without incurring an overdraft fee. (Obviously if the check were to bounce he would, though.) It's totally transformed their poor, very-frazzled accountant's life.
Last month a Wells teller somehow deposited a check into the wrong (as in, not my) account. I feared it would take weeks to recover the funds and was pretty pissed. Instead, they credited the full amount of the check within 24 hours of my notifying them. Seemingly little experiences like that are why I can't imagine ever using another bank.

Dave Schappell:

I'm a pretty happy Wells Fargo business (and personal) customer. I like being able to see everything on one online screen. Also, like the transfer abilities (to quickly pay work credit cards, and transfer money between MM and Checking/Savings/Payroll-Checking accounts).

Villette Nolan:

In the past 3 years I've dealt with 3 different banks. The best one I've found by FAR is Wells Fargo. While you wouldn't think so, Wells has been the most flexible, cost me the least fees and has the most services. I worked with Debbie Taglialavore, and set up my account on the Mercer Island branch. deborah.d.taglialavore@wellsfargo.com 425-257-2232

Forrest Corbett:

What I don't like about WF:
  • Losing money. WF has temporarily lost many thousands of my dollars multiple times. I've made deposits, then days later noticed they don't show up - not even as pending. I go back into the branch and they get on the phone with processing. The branch says they sent off the deposit but the processing center says they didn't receive it. They point fingers at each other. Of course, I don't leave the manager's office until something is done but why should I have to go through that?
  • Putting money in the wrong account. This is different than losing money. They just screw up and put it in the wrong account.
  • Their turnover rate does not work well with their attempts to seem friendly. The continual flow of new tellers are apparently instructed to ask a series of questions to appear as if they actually care. Let's face it, they don't care. I don't expect them to care. I'd rather they stop with the 20 questions and just deal with the task at hand.
  • Random fees. For example, with one account we're not even using right now fees occasionally show up. They're pretty obvious since there should be no activity with the account. Even a branch manager can't figure out what they are. At least she is now aware enough about them that she goes in and credits us back without us having to ask. That is a bonus. However, they've gone through more managers than I can remember and they're not always so nice

Credit Unions

BECU

http://www.becu.org/

Forrest Corbett:

With BECU, deposited money is instantly available. They often don't charge fees where it would be reasonable to, and they for sure don't charge random or excess fees. They also process things in a way as to avoid fees. I know they're not a "bank" but for most of what I do, I have yet to see an advantage to a bank. I will have to keep some accounts with WF... for example my startup is based in NV and so I need a bank with a presence in both states.

Loren Bast:

+1 for a BECU small business account. Never had any serious $$ go through it :-(, but I've never had a problem with them, and they're pretty responsive to my questions.

James Moore:

I just (May 2010) opened a small business account at BECU, and they told me they don't do online payments for businesses, just consumers. Was that just a clueless person in the office making stuff up? I can't imagine having to go back to scrawling dollar amounts on small scraps of paper and then putting them in the physical mailbox. It didn't even occur to me to ask - I just assumed online banking was required functionality in the twenty-first century.

First Tech Credit Union

http://firsttechcu.com/

Daniel Dosen:

I use/recommend 1st Tech CU for financial work that I do - It's free and easy to set up/manage automated features like bill-pay, use non-paper statements, and download electronic statements. They also have some local merchant banks that are easy to deal with.

Scott Ruthfield:

I've been a happy personal customer of 1st Tech for ~15 years, but would not recommend anybody does business banking with them. I tried to run my business through them for the first six months and eventually gave up in frustration - they're just not set up to really handle small businesses, especially ones that don't live next door to a branch (i.e. Seattle folks). I would spend hours on the phone trying to reach the one person who could decide that day whether to clear my checks, I had to hold conference calls between multiple banks and clients to get checks to clear, I'd have to go to BECU neighborhood branches and get things faxed to multiple locations, getting accounts set up for sharing was a mess, etc.

Verity Credit Union

http://www.veritycu.com/

Michael Murray:

I just opened my business account with Verity Credit Union. I was/am a First Tech customer but they're not convenient Seattle-side, whereas Verity has Green Lake and Northgate (and other) Seattle-side offices. I want a local branch for a business account. Thus far I'm pretty happy with them, and they do allow online banking and electronic bill pay.