Bankers understand the importance of strategically growing core customers. Organic growth is essential to keeping financial institutions growing.

Based on client data, a decade ago, the average community bank had 1,950 consumer and business checking accounts per branch. They opened 310 new consumer and business checking accounts per branch per year and closed 239 of the same. These banks grew between 70 and 90 checking relationships per branch every year, resulting in a portfolio growth of 5% for those with a successful growth strategy.  

That trend held through 2021, when annual checking account net growth shrank to between 40 and 60 accounts per branch per year, or less than 3%. Institutions without a growth strategy saw their net portfolio going from a flat level before 2022 to a net decrease in the last two years.

Since 2010, consumer attrition at community banks, meaning consumers leaving or switching financial institutions, declined from 14.90% to as low as 8.16% in 2020. Since 2022, attrition has increased, reaching 10.25% in 2023.

The decline in attrition from 2010 to 2020 meant fewer available growth opportunities on the account opening side, but that opportunity has increased slightly over the last two years. More consumers switching means there are more opportunities to capture new relationships. That said, the competition for these customers and checking accounts has increased dramatically.

Because attrition is back to pre-pandemic levels and competition is fiercer than ever, actively growing new consumer relationships — while proactively reducing your attrition — is the recipe for success. So how do you begin?

1. Increasing Relational Intensity at Account Opening
Banks should be training their employees to deepen relationships with new customers on the first visit. Employees should also be coached on how to identify opportunities to better serve existing customers by helping save them time and money, make money, achieve peace of mind or realize a dream. The more products and services new and existing customers use, the less likely they are to leave.
With approximately 35% of bank customers being single-product households, there is ample opportunity to increase both product and service utilization to lower consumer attrition.

2. Effective Onboarding, Engagement Strategies
Community banking is about differentiation. Many FIs have commendable onboarding intentions but lack accountability for execution. This is where technology can support you. As a community bank, your outreach to new, and existing, relationships should be as personal as possible. Staff and branches should provide personal service, supported by automated solutions that catch relationships that fall through the cracks during onboarding.

From simple phone calls to automated product offerings, the primary challenge should be to deepen engagement by building genuine relationships.

3. Implementing Account Retention Specialists
When consumers say, “I need to close an account,” far too often the response is, “Okay, just a minute.” But what if the process was different? What if banks had retention specialists in each branch — team members who try to learn the reasons behind account closing requests and work to retain the relationships? The answer could look more like this:
Banker: “I am sorry to hear that. Please let me introduce you to Karen who can help with that process.”

Karen: “I am sorry to hear you need to close an account. May I ask, is this an account you no longer need, or are you moving the funds elsewhere?”

The consumer’s reasoning could dictate the rest of the conversation.

Consolidation: “It will only take a moment to close the account and transfer those funds into your remaining account.”

Moving Funds: “May I ask, are you relocating, or did we do something to lose your trust?”

Relocating: “Moving is already challenging, but may I share how you can continue to bank here using our electronic services while living almost anywhere?”

Lost Trust: “I am so very sorry to learn this. Would you please help me understand how we could have served you better? I sincerely appreciate you sharing this with me. I promise to make sure this information gets to the appropriate individuals. I would like to ask you a favor: Would you consider staying with us so we can demonstrate our commitment to improving?”

Managing customer attrition is just as important as organic growth. When the two work in tandem, amazing things happen. Realistically banks can’t retain every customer, but by trying to retain more of them, your growth goals become easier to obtain.


Achim Griesel


Achim Griesel, President, is originally from Germany where he received an Accounting and Management degree from the University of Rheinland Pfalz. He has worked with financial institutions for more than 25 years, focusing on growth and profitability. Achim also serves on the board of Haberfeld Holdings and has authored or co-authored numerous articles on community banking, marketing and profitability for industry publications. He has been a featured speaker at a variety of conferences, such as Financial Manager Society, BAI and State Associations.


Sean Payant

Chief Strategy Officer and Sr. EVP

Dr. Sean Payant, Chief Strategy Officer and Sr. EVP, leads Haberfeld’s consulting, account executive and creative teams. In that capacity he is responsible for the company’s High Performance Growth Strategy helping financial institution executives and their teams implement targeted strategies focused on improving overall profitability.  Sean is a faculty member at Stonier and the Pacific Coast School of Banking, has presented more than 200 keynote and breakout sessions at industry meetings. He holds Masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Nebraska.