When ING Direct started in the US in 2000, many banks laughed about its concept:
• Encourage people to save money, instead of spend money, and give them a free savings account with a high interest rate;
• Don´t give customers a credit card; give them a debit card instead, so that they only spend the money that they have. Instead of (expensive and unsecure) checks, we can also e-mail money to each other;
• Offer customers an attractive mortgage, that fits their salary – without giving them a mortgage that would not fit their needs but would be more profitable, or charge hidden fee´s without the borrower knowing about it.
This low-cost business model is made possible by avoiding expensive branch offices, and offer banking services over the phone and internet. To keep in touch with (potential) clients, ING Direct cafe’s were opened in large cities; customers can drink a latte, and ask the barista something about saving accounts or mortgages. (The coffee served here is Peet’s Coffee; founded by the Dutch entrepreneur Alfred Peet, who moved to San Francisco in 1966 to use his coffee-brewing experience with California – it turned out to be the inspiration for Starbucks. Just to let you know!)
After 8 years, other banks started recognizing and respecting ING Direct´s values. News shows wonder how ING Direct US is the only survivor of the subprime mortgage crisis: while Countrywide had 94.000 foreclosures in 2007, ING Direct US only had 15! The world now realized that a lot of Americans are financially illiterate. The economical consequences are still unknwon. Anyhow, it feels good to work for a company that tries to help people to get into a better, more stabilized financial situation, while at the same time it is a very successful lender. And if people still don´t trust the internet as a medium to use all their banking services: ING Direct was the safest bank in the US in 2007!
Here is a recent news video about ING Direct US surviving the subprime mortgage crisis:
And some pictures of the ING Direct café in Philly: