You'd think a bank losing gobs of money would be cutting corners, but a new study shows that some of the nation's worst-performing banks are among the best at delivering customer service.

United Community Bank in Blairsville, Ga., Sterling Savings Bank in Spokane, Wash., BankAtlantic in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Flagstar Bank in Troy, Mich., lost a combined $300 million in the first quarter, yet in J.D. Power and Associates' latest customer- satisfaction survey, each ranked No. 1 in their respective regions.

United Community, which hasn't had a profitable quarter in two years, was tops in the Southeast.

Sterling, which is low on capital and operating under an enforcement order, was No. 1 in the Northwest.

Flagstar, which has lost $808 million over the last three years, ranked highest in the North Central region. And BankAtlantic, which has had 11 straight money-losing quarters, is No. 1 in Florida.

No doubt each of these banks' staffs have worked hard to maintain service levels in these tough times, but the results may also speak more about customers' attitudes toward large banks.

J.D. Power uses six criteria to analyze customer satisfaction, including facilities, fees, problem resolution and product offerings. It surveyed 48,000 consumers and in each of the 11 regions a community or regional bank ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the nation's three largest banks-Bank of America, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase-ranked below average in their regions and in several instances ranked dead last.

BankThink is a forum for ideas, commentary and reader feedback. If you have something to say, send an email to alan.kline@sourcemedia.com.

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