Soon after joining Baptist Eye Surgeons of Knoxville, TN, as Administrator in February 2011, Don Cook began shopping for a new business bank. Frustrated by subpar service, he switched to First Tennessee Bank last fall because its people were responsive and strong on follow-through, and the bank had a solid reputation with the practice's doctors, most of whom used First Tennessee for their personal banking. But what has impressed Cook the most since awarding the practice's business to First Tennessee, he says, is the bank's consultative, relationship approach and his new bankers' ability to suggest "outside-the-box" money-saving solutions.
Every bank wooing Baptist Eye Surgeons when Cook put the business out for bid suggested he purchase Positive Pay reconciliation to defend against check fraud, a major threat to medical practices. Cook says he was hesitant to add to his banking expenses, but First Tennessee, after learning more about his firm, came up with a way he could gain Positive Pay protection and reduce his costs.
Baptist Eye Surgeons annually sees about 24,000 patients at its two locations, and its nine doctors perform more than 4,000 surgeries a year, including many cataract and laser eye procedures. As Meredith Futhey, Vice President, Corporate & Healthcare Treasury Management, at First Tennessee learned more about the practice, she saw it had the receivables of a large firm but the payables of a small business, as it issued fewer than 200 checks a month.
"We told Don that First Tennessee could give the practice a typical large-company accounts receivable account setup but establish a small business account for its accounts payable needs," Futhey says. "We could provide a small business accounts payable (A/P) service, which comes with Positive Pay check-fraud protection, for less than the practice would pay for a large-corporate A/P account without Positive Pay."
Cook's reaction: "I was literally floored. First Tennessee was telling me they were going to give me more service and charge me less. That really sealed the relationship for me. At that point I knew that First Tennessee was truly looking out for my best interests and not just trying to make a buck off of me.
"That's my definition of relationship banking," he says.
Service and follow-through he can count on
Cook has several stories about how his previous bank failed to respond in a timely fashion to resolve service issues, including a check that cleared twice and repeated unwarranted finance charges on certain credit card transactions. A big goal in switching banks was to achieve more attentive service.
From the beginning, Cook says he believed First Tennessee – led by Futhey and Michelle Hardin, Senior Vice President in the Medical Private Banking Group – would provide the desired upgrade. "I felt their bankers were sincere and there was a sense of commitment," he says. "I received prompt responses on any questions I asked."
Over the years, Cook says he's experienced many empty promises in business. So he values honesty and integrity in a banking relationship. "I prefer to do business with people who say what they mean, mean what they say and do what they say they're going to do. And First Tennessee Bank does that."
As just one example, he cites the assistance First Tennessee provided in addressing the challenges associated with accepting electronic deposits from insurance carriers following the banking change. "Meredith [Futhey] assured me they would be there to help with the transition and she provided sample conversion letters for us to send to all the carriers, which was fabulous," he says.
Personal banking (and a personal touch)
Cook says the quality of service provided by First Tennessee's Hardin and others on the private banking side has been so outstanding that he responded recently by joining most of the practice's doctors and moving his personal banking business to First Tennessee.
"I had been with the same local bank for 15 years," Cook says. "But I've been so impressed with First Tennessee that I moved my account to them."
To illustrate the service culture he has experienced at First Tennessee, Cook describes a visit to the bank's South Knoxville branch: "I went to the branch for the first time to meet the office manager and introduce the manager to the staff member who would be making deposits for us. About a month after that introductory visit, I went to that branch for only the second time – and the teller there immediately recognized me and called me by my first name. It blew me away.
"When the people at First Tennessee say 'relationship banking,' they mean it," Cook says.