Oriental looks to add 25K new accounts, boost deposits
Oriental Bank is looking to add 25,000 new customers and boost deposits by 3 percent in the next 12 months by offering to reimburse them for the bank fees they pay for using a competitor’s automated teller machine.
Through its new “Cuenta Libre” (“Free Account”), the financial institution is looking to “offer clients a new style of banking,” executives said during a news conference Wednesday.
“We chose the name ‘Libre’ because freedom is precisely what our clients want. We are always carefully watching conversations on social media, and people are constantly expressing resentment at the fees they have to pay for withdrawing their own money at teller machines,” said Alexandra López-Soler, Oriental’s senior vice president of marketing and public relations. “People reject these unnecessary charges and want more freedom and flexibility to access their money. This new account is born out of listening to our clients.”
Through “Cuenta Libre” account, Oriental will reimburse clients up to three transaction charges (up to $1.50 per charge) a month incurred through withdrawals at ATMs outside Oriental’s network, “so they can have the freedom to withdraw their money free of charge at the 6,000 ATMs in Puerto Rico, in addition to the 90-plus Oriental network ATMs”, said Félix Silva, senior vice president of retail channel.
So, if the bank succeeded in adding the 25,000 new accounts, it would be reimbursing as much as $1.35 million to customers over a 12-month period, if they burned up their three monthly transactions.
Citing recent consumer studies, Silva said teller machines are the second most used and fastest growing banking channel, with 85 percent of the banking population on the island accessing them.
“Clients value more every day the way they spend their money and time. In Puerto Rico, 85 percent of those who have a banking account use ATMs for withdrawals and deposits, and 75 percent have access to the Internet,” López-Soler said. “Also, 53 percent of Puerto Ricans that own cell phones have a smartphone that they use for personal errands, including readily accessing their money.”
Among other benefits, the new account will offer the following transactions free of charge: unlimited electronic via online or mobile banking, ACH (Automatic Clearing House) transactions, POS (Point of Sales), telephone and use of Oriental ATM machines. In addition, the account offers an optional credit line of up to $25,000 subject to credit approval. The account may be opened with an initial $25 deposit, but to benefit from the reimbursement, the client must maintain a minimum daily balance of $1,000.
The Oriental executives explained that the new account and its features are possible due to the installation of a new online banking platform developed by the bank to serve a new generation of customers that prefer to manage and control their money through technological devices, such as mobile phones or computers.
And while the bank is anchoring this new service on the premise that it will free customers from having to go to a branch to complete their transactions, the fact remains that they will still have to take a trip to one if they need to deposit a check.
However, both López-Soler and Silva admitted that Oriental is working on launching image check deposit tools — which would allow clients to take a picture of their check and deposit it using their mobile device — “soon.”
Oriental executives unveiled details of the new service at their so-called “Duty Fee Shop,” a booth the bank set up in Plaza Las Américas to orient people by exchanging their receipts showing ATM charges for coffee and pastries. The booth will subsequently be set up at other malls, including Plaza del Caribe and Plaza del Sol.