"Cool" cash, cold heart
This article is part of the Building a Sustainable Business series about starting and running a sustainable business. Read all the articles here.
Every new business needs a bank that will treasure you, help you, be there for you when things get hard. Of course, this is mostly fantasy, since banks only give money to people who don’t need it. Actually, all I ever expected was common courtesy and a smile. My bank, big evil bank #2, according to Occupy Everywhere, practiced benign neglect which was fine until I started my business.
I was aware of a revered environmentalist who invested in pro-social, sustainable businesses. His latest venture was a bank that only accepted socially responsible businesses and since my company has a deep green product and is socially responsible, I figured this must be my spiritual home.
I cold-called the office and met with a bank officer. If someone asked: animal, vegetable or mineral? The immediate response would be: potato.
Bank officers don’t have to have a personality. Apparently, cool, sustainable bankers don’t even have to smile. It wasn’t clear that she was even interested in my money which made me want to use the bank even more. But then, she discovered a ding on my banking record, years old, from a bank I’d never had an account with. An obvious mistake that was fixed within an hour.
But when I returned to the bank, the potato had transmogrified into The Punisher. “You can’t use your money for two weeks!” She growled at me. Two weeks! I was giving her cash. “Don’t you have computers?” I asked. There was a terminal on her desk but for all I knew, it was attached to gnomes in the basement beavering away with quills and vellum.
She slammed a piece of paper on the desk. Their fee schedule: $25 for writing a check; $50 for using the ATM, of which they had one; $1,000 for daring to withdraw any of my money. An exaggeration, of course, but the fees for using this bank would kill my business.
I looked up at her and for a moment I saw knee-high leather boots, a whip, and an angry face. We never got around to discussing services. I don’t think they had any.
Back to big evil bank #2 where nice people welcomed me but put me at the kid’s table since I didn’t have enough money to sit with the grownups.
I had recovered from the trauma of dealing with cool bank #1 when I ran into a very nice banker from cool bank #2. Occupy Everywhere was urging people to take their money out of big evil banks and put it into cool banks. I closed my account at evil bank #2 and went to open an account a cool bank #2. But the banker I liked worked in San Jose so he referred me to their San Francisco office.