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- I’ve used several banks over the years, and I recently looked into switching to online banking.
- I’ve moved most of my investments to an online account so I don’t focus on it every day.
- I’m still keeping my brick-and-mortar bank, though — the in-person service I’ve received is invaluable.
I inherited my first bank from my mother — the largest of Canada’s Big Five banks, Royal Bank of Canada. When I lived in Switzerland, my husband and I had a shared bank account with United Bank of Switzerland. And when we moved back to Canada in 2013, I switched to my husband’s bank, the oldest in the country, BMO.
It wasn’t until I started working with an independent financial planner in 2017 after the sudden death of my husband that I put any real thought into where I did my banking and whether or not I was using one of the best banks. I started weighing my options and being more thoughtful about where I kept my money. Here’s how I decided where to bank.
Why did I consider a change?
I met with my financial planner — who I started working with after my husband died — to talk about my investments and the fees I was paying on them. At the time, I was doing all of my banking and investing with BMO. None of my actively-managed investments were performing well and I was paying high fees for them.
Together, we sketched out a new investment strategy that prioritized saving on fees. The result was that I moved most of my investments to Wealthsimple, an online-only bank that targets Canadian millennials looking for something different (Wealthsimple’s US operations have been acquired by Betterment). Its transparent structure and hybrid approach appealed to me. I like the streamlined online platform, I have access to robo-advisors informed by algorithms and sound investment philosophies, and I still have a dedicated person that I can speak with.
I looked into other non-brick-and-mortar banks in Canada, like Tangerine, but found that I still wanted to do my core banking (checking and savings accounts) with one of the Big Five, and ultimately decided to stay with BMO for these services.
Keeping my investments separate is a healthier choice for me
Wealthsimple’s low fees, robo-advisors, and hybrid approach all appealed to me. But the main reason I made the switch had more to do with the psychological side of money. When I had all of my investments with BMO, it meant that I would see what my long-term investments were doing anytime I logged into my online banking. I would see my retirement fund fluctuating as I went to pay a bill or send an e-transfer. This wasn’t good for my mental health or my resolve.
Moving my long-term investments to a separate platform with Wealthsimple where I check in on them once a month when I do my bookkeeping is much healthier for me. It helps me stay the course, even when the market is volatile and my investments struggle.
I meet with my dedicated Wealthsimple advisor, Scott, once or twice a year to make changes to reflect my evolving financial situation. I have changed the risk tolerance level on my long-term retirement investment to benefit from a long time horizon as my own comfort level with investing has increased over time.
I’m not ready to give up in-person service
At the time, the branch manager at my local BMO was super hands-on and helpful. She helped me navigate the mountain of paperwork and complex legal financial documents related to my husband’s unexpected death. She made sure that I got the attention and support I needed from my bank.
The level of service I needed in those first years as a widow learning to manage my finances and create a financial structure that worked for my new life was something I don’t believe I could have gotten from any of the online, discount banks I’d looked into.
I kept some of my investments with BMO, shifting to robo-advised accounts to avoid paying higher fees. BMO is ahead of the game in this vein among the Big Five banks in Canada; not all of them offer robo-advised accounts.
Because I kept most of my money and accounts with BMO, the bank was able to extend low or no-fee banking on all of my accounts, including my credit cards. This cost-savings alone might have convinced me to stay with BMO, but I continue to be satisfied with its service, and I’ve even decided to do my business banking with the company as well.
Being more thoughtful about how and where I do my banking has paid off for me, not just in terms of savings on fees, but also energetically. I’ve stopped wasting time and energy worrying about my investments and wondering whether the grass (and the money) is greener elsewhere.