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Big Bank Buyouts Can Cost the Customer

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RALEIGH — Bank mergers are occurring often, as largebanks become financial behemoths by swallowing smaller bank chains,many in other states. You may not think this means a lot to you, but itdoes.

The big bank buyouts over the past decade have often left customers onthe losing end of the deal.

In many cases these deals lead to more costly, and less personal serviceat the place you used to call your hometown bank because in many cases thebig banks impose their higher service fees on the smaller banks theyacquire.

Larger banks have a lot to say in defense of their high fees. Their main point is that they offer a much wider range of products and services than they did even just a decade ago.

Customer Phil Loseke says he thinks the fees are outrageous, and thathe doesn't have any personal dealings with his bank anymore.

In addition, the big bank attitude has turned off a lot of customers.

Greg Datz has noticed that there are fewer small banks around. "Youdon't really see the smaller banks too much anymore," Datz said. "You kindof feel like you lose contact. You feel like a number sometimes."

But some people in the industry are trying to preserve that personaltouch.

The emergence of these massive, and what some call impersonal banks hasalso fueled another trend, the growth of community banks, known as thesmallest of the small

"Well, I think when consolidation occurs it gives some opportunitiesfor banks like us."

Enter Jim Beck, the CEO of Capital Bank, a startup based in Raleigh. His goal, to create a smalltown bank feel in an era of bigtime, big dealbanking.

"Fees are certainly out there and here to stay, but for us, we'rereally more interested in building our customer base than building ourbase offee income," Beck says. "Our basic business of lending money andgathering depositsis a little more important to us now."

Odds are these community banks will never challenge the market dominanceof the nation's largest and fastest growing ones.

But they do offer consumers an alternative.

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