Remember Jimmy Stewart in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, when it looks like there’s a run on the bank? I watched it again the other night; it got me to thinking about banks that are really responsible (and responsive) to their customers, just like in the movie. There are not many banks like that left anymore. I did some research into banks in the US and elsewhere and came across customer-owned banks in Australia, such as Newcastle Permanent, an independent, mutual, retail financial service provider, which opened it doors 110 years ago and is still going strong. It is the third largest institution in the customer-owned banking association.
These ‘mutual’ banks operate similarly to mutual companies in the US. Remember Mutal of Omaha, as in the TV show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” (It’s okay if you don’t, the show has been off air for decades but was a mainstay in the post war years.) Because their customers are members, they work more closely with their community. In Australia, they have four major banks, just like we have Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America in the US. In the US, many people are upset with the big banks, and how they treat their customers, and are looking for alternatives. I wonder if the mutual institutions are experiencing an upsurge due to the new interest of consumers discontented with large, impersonal banks, as in the US?