Commerce Bank Brings Retailing Offensive to D.C. Market

This past weekend Commerce Bank burst onto Washington, D.C.’s financial scene. The Commerce culture is influencing competitors’ strategies for retaining customers.


Free hotdogs and soda, live music, prizes, even a shoeshine, and more were available on Friday and Saturday in downtown Washington D.C. This was not for one of the many festivals constantly taking over the city but to announce Commerce Bank has arrived in Washington.

In markets across the United States credit unions are increasingly facing new competitors, such as Commerce. New entrants energize markets and increase competition for members. This weekend was the beginning of a campaign to promote Commerce's planned expansion of more than 200 branches in the Washington area.

Friendly faces of employees from branches across the northeast filled the lively atmosphere of the brand new bank facility. They showered each visitor with information on free offerings, ranging from cheap plastic banks in the shape of Commerce's logo to cash drawings for up to $10,000.

Over 300 Commerce employees from Philadelphia, New York, and other markets were on hand over the two-day opening. The staff was able to report the number of new accounts and balances opened in the day prior.

The music from the live band still audible blocks from the new branch was not the only sign of the market's new entrant. PNC, the newly converted Riggs Bank, also had staff on the street passing out fliers to and chatting with pedestrians. They were offering a five-month CD with 5 percent APR as a two day special, which coincided with the opening day specials of Commerce bank. In addition they touted their new hours on Sunday for the branches closest to the new Commerce location.

Commerce is well known for its registered trademark as “America’s Most Convenient Bank." It is not surprising that other banks would take note. These banks recognize that one of the greatest challenges is just to simply get customers through the door. Free gifts – blenders, coffee makers or George Forman Grills – or amazing rates are tactics for acquiring new relationships.

Though this happened in the Washington area this week, next week similar activity could take place in almost any market. Undoubtedly the new accounts opened this past weekend were in addition to existing accounts at other financial institutions. The challenge for the current primary financial institutions of members is to retain their existing relationships in the face of new entrants with brand new facilities, impressive rates, and short-lived promotions.

Credit unions built over 500 new branches in the past year. Branch expansion and increased spending on retail strategies across the credit union industry in preparation for competition based on great rates, seven-day-a-week service, and marketing promotions is bound to magnify.

The festivities created a buzz with the local financial community and residents. Their event and counter marketing launched a word-of-mouth campaign about the free coin counting machines, CD rates, friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere.

Is your credit union’s marketing strategy creating a stir and giving your members something worth talking about?




June 27, 2005



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