In a Nutshell: Online banking has increased in popularity over the last decade as consumers look for ways to stay connected to their money without having to search for a branch office. Ally Bank is a leader in online banking products and services since a 2010 rebrand changed its name from GMAC, which had provided vehicle financing since 1919. The online-only institution uses the savings from not having to maintain brick-and-mortar locations to provide customer benefits that include a stellar 1.45% online savings account interest rate with no maintenance or hidden fees. Ally’s savings accounts and products are a good way to grow savings without being inundated with fees and other charges.
I got my first job at 14, bagging groceries for $4.25 an hour. When I received my first paycheck, I ran to the nearest bank to set up an account and claim my earnings. A few decades, and many paychecks later, I still maintain that account.
Not long ago, consumers looking to join a financial institution sought one with branches close to their home, work, or along their daily commute. The convenience of a nearby location made the tedious tasks of deposits and withdrawals easier.
That strategy worked for consumers like me who remained in the same general area for decades. But, on average, Americans move 11.4 times in their lifetime, which can quickly make that convenient location inconvenient.
The advent of online banking was a breakthrough for financial services because institutions could now provide better rates and account access from anywhere at any time. Seemingly overnight, consumers were suddenly in a position to stay with the same institution for decades.
Few firms have thrived under the online-only business model as has Ally Bank. Providing financing and insurance for 90 years, GMAC rebranded its banking unit to become Ally Bank in May of 2009, before GMAC, itself, rebranded as Ally Financial in 2010. By 2015, Ally Bank was celebrating its 1 millionth customer.
Today, Ally Financial is a top 25 US financial holding company with $167.1 billion in assets, more than 8,000 employees, and 5.6 million customers.
Its meteoric rise is, in part, due to the stellar interest rates offered on Ally savings products and competitive pricing on other services compared with those offered by brick-and-mortar institutions.
“Our operating model is pretty simple — just do away with the costs big banks have from operating branches and pass those savings on to customers,” said Anand Talwar, Deposits and Consumer Strategy Executive at Ally.
Ally customers see those savings in the form of competitive rates and lower fees. The firm’s current 1.45% annual percentage yield compounding daily on all tiers of its online savings accounts is among the best in the industry and a tremendous way to grow savings of any amount.
“On top of the stellar interest rate, there are no monthly maintenance fees, or low (balance) punitive fees,” Talwar said. “And customers have access to a human being if they need it.”
For its low fees, superior customer service, and competitive interest rates that grow savings, Ally Bank has earned our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
Online Banking Services that Go Anywhere You Need Them
Operating exclusively online means Ally doesn’t have to work within the confines of a traditional bank’s hours of operation. Instead, the company provides what it calls a “24/7 elevated service experience” on its website and mobile application.
The bank takes security seriously, offering a no-liability guarantee for unauthorized online or mobile banking transactions as long as a report on the transaction is filed within 60 days from its statement date.
Customers are also given free Webroot® SecureAnywhere™ antivirus software that protects up to three devices, including smartphones. But despite the focus on technology, Ally never strays far from its customer-focused roots planted as GMAC in 1919.
“Most of our transactions are done digitally, but the human component is still a big part of how we deliver service to customers,” Talwar said.
The company has invested heavily in providing superior customer service that emphasizes the human touch through customer service options that include online chats or phone conversations.
“We do things differently than most banks,” Talwar said. “Our call center employees aren’t on the clock and counting the minutes and they aren’t pushy when it comes to sales. Their only goal is the satisfaction of our customers and nothing more.”
Ally also offers a service it calls the Dejargonator that lets customers hover their computer’s mouse over financial terms and jargon that appear throughout the website to define them so the language is user-friendly.
“We are maniacal about delivering a simple and elegant digital experience,” Talwar said. “Everything we design is built to take a process that is confusing or complex and make it simple.”
A Seamless Transition Between Desktop and Mobile Banking
Online banking has grown in popularity over the last decade, but not as rapidly as has the mass adoption of mobile banking in America.
Institutions use tablet and smartphone banking applications to improve overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. Ally is a leader in the mobile banking trend with application options for iPhone and Android that mirror the desktop banking interface.
“Our mobile experience is simple and intuitive,” Talwar said. “It should feel seamless going from desktop to mobile with just about any phone.”
Mobile banking users can make deposits, pay bills, transfer money to Ally or other US banks and credit unions, view balances and transaction history, and send money with Zelle®, securely and at no extra charge.
In early 2018, the online bank launched the Ally Skill℠, a set of voice commands for the popular Amazon Echo device, making the bank the first to allow transfers to out-of-network accounts through Alexa. Users can also use their voice to check account balances, hear recent transactions, and get up-to-date rates on loan products.
Striving to Provide a More Personalized Experience
Banks have traditionally been marketed as formal businesses that spare humor in favor of single-minded efficiency and seriousness. To date, Ally has successfully walked the tightrope offering high-value products, while remaining approachable and available to customers.
“One thing that sets us apart from other banks is that we are heavily engaged in social media,” Talwar said. “We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other websites where we have direct contact with customers. We want to be where our customers are and have a dialogue with them.”
Ally collects customer feedback through its social channels, on its website, and through customer-generated reviews on Ally.com. Talwar said the company uses that information to drive investments in future products and services.
“Our real focus is on how we deliver our service to customers and getting a touch more personal and relevant through the feedback mechanisms we have and responding to what they ask for,” he said.
By collecting feedback, and investing in future services and products, Ally continues to provide customers with superior rates and savings opportunities that traditional brick-and-mortar banks can’t match.
“We’re trying to position ourselves to be a financial ally for your well-being,” Talwar said. “That goes beyond having the latest and greatest tech and more toward having a humanized experience to meet your financial needs.”