San Antonio, Texas
In Texas, it's not uncommon for us locals to anoint our homegrown institutions with cult status. Whataburger. Austin City Limits. But a bank? As I heard murmurs about how 138-year-old Frost Bank, with fewer than 100 branches in eight Texas markets, was truly different from imported megabanks, I had to see for myself.
Most banks tell you they're in the relationship business, but I witnessed meaningful one-on-one interactions over and over at Frost. Starting with me. I'm immediately greeted by a smiling woman seated at a concierge desk at an Austin branch. I'm looking for a savings account, but I don't have much savings. To her credit, she doesn't recommend a traditional savings account where I'd incur fees if I dip below the minimum balance. Instead, she suggests setting up two free checking accounts—one to stash my savings in, even though it's not best for the bank. I spy personal bankers roaming with wireless laptops in the Frost Room, the bank's uber-lounge, giving Web-challenged patrons quick tutorials in online bill paying.
I was still skeptical—was this attention because I was a potential client? I quizzed a friend who's a longtime customer. "They exude this old-school Texas sensibility," she tells me. "They treat you well, regardless of your account balance. And, of course, they're from here. You gotta love that."
A version of this article appeared in the September 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.