SFGI Direct is headquartered in Moorefield and is the 4th largest bank in the state of West Virginia. It is also the 490th largest bank in the nation. It was established in 1995 and as of December of 2013, it had grown to 196 employees at 17 locations. SFGI Direct's savings rates are 94% higher than the national average, and it has a C+ health rating.
I've banked with a couple of online banks over the years and these guys are pretty good. You need $500 to open a savings account, but after it is approved and funded your balance can decline down to $1 with no penalty while still earning interest. I think they do this to limit the number of low-margin, money-losing $5 accounts that can hurt a bank's bottom line. As a potential depositer, you have to clear the bar, but once you're in, you're good.
They have a secure online email system which I used to change my external account. The responses were turned around in 24-hours and were respectful and helpful. Apparently they also have customer service phone support, but I didn't use it, so I won't comment on it.
I haven't found any hidden fees or sneaky policies. In fact, their agreement with the depositor is notably brief and consists mainly of "we do this, we won't do that, you do this, you shouldn't do that"-kind of things. There were no monetary penalties or oppressive language that I could find. In fact, I scoured their website looking for a hidden Disclosures document, but I didn't find anything, and believe me, I clicked on every single hyperlink on that site.
I haven't been banking with them long enough to know this for myself, but other people on the web have asserted that SFGI Direct tries to keep its savings rate up (currently at 0.91 percent as of 2/20/12) by limiting the number of depositors rather then the bait-and-switch with the interest rate thing. We'll see, but I'm hopeful.
Their website is a little rudimentary. I think it is supplied by their online secure-banking-provider but I'm not 100% sure of that. The reason I think so is because some parts of the deeper-down interface refer to loans and other things that aren't offered by SFGI Direct. In that sense, the website seems templatized although not 'not pertinent', if that makes sense. It's not klunky or "bad", it's just rudimentary. It's functional, though. It's not difficult to get around or get things done. Maybe this comment is a nit, but I thought I'd mention it.
I was pleased with how fast they initiated and completed an ACH debit to my external checking account. It posted in 2 days. Not bad considering how others hang on to your money for the float.
Overall I'm liking the simplicity, lack of hidden policies and fees, good reputation across the web, and speed of transactions.
Time will tell, but this seems like what I want.
UPDATE: I thought I'd update this review, since it has gotten a little out-of-date since I wrote it in early 2012.
Everything is still positive as far as my dealings with the bank. The current savings rate is 1.01 percent, as of 4/4/2014.
I've had no surprises or bad experiences. I also set up a portion of my paycheck as a direct deposit to SFGI Direct since I first wrote the review, and it has worked flawlessly.
It has also become apparent to me over time that SFGI/Summit has a real commitment to being in the internet space. They're not a huge bank--although not tiny either--but they've obviously done a lot of hard work to have a viable presence on the web. I have a local credit union account, too, because it's convenient, and they're about the same size as SFGI/Summit, but their web experience can not compete with SFGI's. I personally find it impressive that SFGI has invested in the infrastructure to keep a viable web presence up and running, and continue to make incremental improvements. That can't be easy or cheap. Good for them, I say.
All of the same positives I wrote about before still hold true for me: Simplicity, their policies, no hidden fees, and speed of transactions. I'm staying with SFGI Direct and feel that it's an important part of my overall banking "portfolio", if you will.
Have been banking here for a couple years from a variety of remote locations.
As a previous poster has said, service is quite good. ACHs are particularly fast (pushing money out takes half the time it would take for me to pull from my external account). Some headaches:
1. I have a joint account with my husband. We are both co-signers and therefore both are authorized to take $ out without the other's signature. I locked myself out of the account because I had recently changed the password and forgot. The account was opened using my husband's SSN, and that's what they reset the password to. I forgot that piece of info (yes I'm a space cadet), so I called again to get it reset. Then the call center woman figured out that the SSN wasn't mine. She insisted that my husband call in and reset. My husband is busy working his day job. I should have been able to reset. She refused.
2. The account mentioned above is actually our 2nd account with them. The first was originally opened by me when I was single. After I got married, I wanted to add my husband as a beneficiary. We asked for the paperwork - they had none and refused to create any. This meant that in the event of my death, any remaining balance would have to go through a costly and time consuming formal probate process (normally if you sign a separate beneficiary document those fund can pass outside a probate). Hence, we had to close this account and open up the account referenced in point #1 above, and become co-signers. MARRIED COUPLES WHO WANT TO ADD EACHOTHER AS BENEFICIARIES BUT NOT AS CO-SIGNERS, YOU'RE OUT OF LUCK HERE. I escalated this to the bank president, who said they are not allowing this for liability/fraud issues. I find that very odd. Almost all banks allow benefiiary designation.
3. This is probably true of other "high" interest rate savings accounts as well, but there is absolutely no way for you to get money in/out other than initiating a transfer to/from your registered external account. I had an emergency once, and believe me, I tried everything - but no cashier's checks, no wires, no bill pay, no nothing. You can change the registered external account at any time, but it will take several days to set up as they have to do the trial deposits/whatnot. Also, the process to change the external account requires you to email customer service (it is not self-serve/automatic)
So for these reasons I'm considering moving my money elsewhere. For me, point #1 above was the last straw.
The Texas Ratio is an indicator of how much funds a bank has available compared to the total value of loans considered at risk. As of December 31, 2013 SFGI Direct had $72.33 million in non-current loans and owned real-estate with $158.17 million in equity and loan loss allowances on hand to cover it. This gives SFGI Direct a Texas Ratio of 45.73% which is average. Any bank with a Texas Ratio near or greater than 100% is considered at risk.
The Texas Ratio for SFGI Direct decreased slightly from 58.44% as of December 31, 2012 to 45.73% as of December 31, 2013, resulting in a positive change of 21.74%.This indicates that the balance sheet and financial strength for SFGI Direct has improved slightly in recent periods.
In the past year, SFGI Direct has decreased its total deposits by -$23.63 million, resulting in -2.29% growth for the year. A strong track record of growth is an indicator of consumer confidence and the bank's ability to strengthen its balance sheet. The growth SFGI Direct has shown is average.
Both FDIC and NCUA consider capitalization levels of banks and credit unions to be of high importance. Higher capitalization allows for a greater buffer when cover loans that may fail in the future. SFGI Direct has $1.38 billion in assets with $158.17 million in equity, resulting in a capitalization level of 11.47%, which is excellent.
|FDIC Certificate #||34102|
|Assets and Liabilities|
|Equity Capital||$145.51 million|
|Loan Loss Allowance||$12.66 million|
|Unbacked Noncurrent Loans||$18.94 million|
|Real Estate Owned||$53.39 million|
|Historic Data - December 2012|
|Equity Capital||$142.79 million|
|Loan Loss Allowance||$17.93 million|
|Unbacked Noncurrent Loans||$18.94 million|
|Real Estate Owned||$56.17 million|
|Profit Margin - Quarterly|
|Net Interest Margin||3.3%|
|Return on Assets||0.7%|
|Return on Equity||6.68%|
|Interest Income||$57.26 million|
Always verify rates and promotions with the bank or credit union. We are not SFGI Direct, we are a rate comparison website and can not provide official rates or promotions.
|1.01%||$500||-||SFGI Direct Savings Account|
SFGI Direct is an Internet only bank and does not have branch locations. Its headquarters is located at 310 North Main Street - Moorefield, WV 26836