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Credit Card Applications » News » Card Issuers » Will Big Banks` Green Initiatives Court Customer Confidence?

Will Big Banks` Green Initiatives Court Customer Confidence?

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Bank of America may come in last in customer satisfaction, but Bloomberg Markets magazine has named them second in the world and first in the U.S. when it comes to its environmental initiatives.

Bloomberg Markets magazine evaluated 48 global financial institutions valued at $10 billion or more for their “Greenest Banks” article, which will appear in the May issue. Bank of America has also been named Most Innovative Investment Bank in Climate Change and Sustainability by The Banker Magazine and came in second on Newsweek magazine`s Greenest Companies roster.

Bloomberg`s ranking reflects banks` efforts in the renewable and low-carbon energy arenas, as well as companies` operational impacts and energy consumption reduction. Bank of America made headlines with two solar power transactions in 2011 which were expected to generate renewable energy as well as create jobs, as well as setting a goal to reduce global greenhouse gas emission 15 percent by 2015.

Responding to the praise of its environmental policies, Brian Moynihan, Bank of America` CEO, said “Our clients operate globally, and rewarding business opportunities are abundant in the new energy economy.”

Bottom of the Barrel

Moynihan must have been relieved to be in the news for something other than Bank of America`s miserable customer satisfaction rating. In December, they came in dead last in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which was published by market research firm ACSI LLC, bases in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and surveyed 4,500 customers across the U.S. The managing director of the ACSI, David VanAmburg, said of Bank of America, “It`s pretty well entrenched at the bottom of the industry.”

Indeed, in the wake of Occupy Wall Street and increasing consumer anger about big bank practices and exorbitant executive bonuses, more and more people are turning to credit unions and smaller banks. Customers are disgruntled by high bank fees, and some are using their credit cards and cash exclusively, eschewing banks and checking accounts altogether. Credit card applications are still robust, as consumers look to rewards credit cards in order to get more from their money, rather than having it drained away by big bank fees – however, card approval ratings with big banks are down. Small banks and credit unions are approving many more applications than big banks, as you can see from this illustration.

Credit-Land.com Commentary

Here at Credit-Land.com, processing credit card applications is only part of what we do. Our editorial team researches the latest financial news and information every day, striving to bring smart and relevant analysis to our readers. Michael Germanovsky, editor-in-chief of Credit-Land.com, spoke to Steve Viuker in an interview for the New Jersey Banker this week. “Out of 1,205,199 complaint inquiries against banks, mortgage lenders, and credit card companies submitted with the Better Business Bureau in 2011, the three issues that arise most often, according to Credit-Land.com research, are billing, interest rates, and fraud, which means that many consumers are still having a hard time understanding terms of their contractual agreements and the type of protection coverage they receive from the banks,” said Germanovsky.

“Although the CARD Act established some guidelines… there is still lack of clarity that confuses consumers. Credit-Land.com data shows that overall approval rating of big banks is relatively small compared to smaller financial institutions. Without improving lending opportunities for average consumers, big banks will continue to see their customers choosing smaller banks and credit unions.”

Consumer Confidence

The one bright spot may be that consumer confidence appears to have risen again in March, according to the Discover U.S. Spending Monitor. Last month, 25 percent of those polled said that their personal finances were improving, and 35 percent said that they believe the overall economy is improving. Thirty-four percent of respondents said that they plan to spend more during the upcoming month, and 36 percent rated their personal finances as being good or excellent.

Whether or not customers choose to entrust those finances that they are feeling so good about to big banks or to credit unions and smaller institutions will probably have more to do with banks` customer policies and less to do with their green initiatives.

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