Smart About Money: The luxury of *not* doing everything online

We live in truly amazing times, where many things are so much more convenient because of computers and the Internet. Previously impossible things are possible (and easy!) now.

Even people who choose not to use computers or the Internet benefit because other people and companies are using them.

We’re lucky to have technology. Absolutely! But sometimes even very good things have drawbacks. The idea of “doing everything online” can be one.

Right now a regional insurance agent is running radio commercials talking about a problem with buying auto insurance online. Specifically, when they’ve been in an accident – when it’s too late to change their insurance – some people are discovering they don’t have the coverage they thought they had. They got what they paid for, but didn’t get the protection they needed or might have been happy to pay for if someone had taken the time to explain the value of an option or idea.

His point? That sometimes it’s better to work with a specialist who knows what questions to ask, a professional who wants make sure you’re really okay with possibly-complicated decisions you’re making.

Another example is online grocery shopping. The media touts it. In some situations, it’s perfect.

But the failure of several web-based grocery delivery services over the past few years seems to indicate that most people don’t object to going to the grocery store. Given that “quicker” and “easier” tend to win over time, it’s possible that going to the grocery store is regarded as more convenient and even more sociable or fun than ordering online.

As a community banker, I often hear from customers who tell me how much it means to them to be able to walk into their bank and immediately be recognized by people who have been on the staff for years.

Customers love not having start from scratch with every interaction, not having to provide half a dozen identifiers, or more!, before someone will even talk to them.

They like knowing they can come see us or call if there’s a question or problem … not get more and more anxious stuck with some voicemail system that feels like it was specifically designed to make it impossible to talk to a person. I know other community bankers hear these things too. All the time.

Independent local banks don’t have to be one-size-fits-all. We like to look out for customers and tell them about possibilities that might really work for them, things they never considered because they didn’t know they existed. You’re not just “a number” at a community bank.

When everything is going fine, online is terrific. But there are many times when it’s so much easier if you can talk to someone you know, someone who will take your call and call you back. These days, that can be a luxury but it’s also a valuable asset, one well-worth developing before you need it.

And it can be a real pleasure working locally with business people you like, people you can tell value you and your business. Modern conveniences with an old-fashioned feel – it’s the best of all worlds!

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank in Canton. “Smart About Money” is a regular column he writes for the Canton Citizen. Have a financial question you’d like to ask? Email to

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