What factors should I consider when choosing a bank, insurance company, or financial institutions?
UPDATED: August 9, 2013
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As a consumer you must be very careful to understand with whom you are dealing. For example, you may trust your bank, and rely on the fact that it is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company. However, the insurance desk at the bank may be leased to and staffed by personnel of an insurance company you either never heard of or should not trust. Similarly, the securities desk may be staffed by an incompetent who was a teller yesterday but an investment counselor today.
Why is the bank renting out its desks? For a share of the commissions and on-going fees you are paying on the insurance or securities or annuity the bank and insurer and brokerage firm expect you to buy. The product may be inferior, the rates poor, and the insurer’s strength minimal, but so long as some consumers think "it’s at my bank so it must be all right" the ruse works.
Even if the trusted institution owns the provider of other product, that does not mean the product it is selling is a good deal.