- Personal Finance
Welcome to Banking 2009
Nice Banks -- and Customers -- Finish Last
I have been a loyal, if sometimes disgruntled, Wells Fargo Bank customer since 1996. Wells Fargo is the quintessential Big Bank. I stay with them for one reason and one reason only: convenience.
Being self-employed, I do not qualify for automatic payroll deposit. There is nothing automatic about my banking. I deposit checks when I receive them from clients. There are two WF branches within 2 miles of my house and 3 WF ATMs inside supermarkets near my house. There are WF branches and ATMs dotted throughout my city and every city I visit regularly.
Things I I like about Wells Fargo include having 24/7 online access to my accounts and envelope-free ATM depositing. I've gone paperless so don't get my monthly statements by mail anymore. That's ok, tho. I print them out for my bookkeeper to do my P&L.
Things I accept about Wells Fargo: The money in my WF accounts is there for easy access/bill paying. I've long since given up expecting any kind of interest, even though I have a savings account linked to my checking (gotta love that overdraft protection!).
In short. 99.9% of my interaction with Wells Fargo is via computer or ATM machine. I only go into a branch to
a) Dispute an overdraft fee (most times I win), or
b) Deposit "special" checks that are too big to put through the ATM. '
Trust me, these "special" check situations are few and far between. On the one hand, I'd be thrilled to have all my deposits be $5,000+. On the other hand, I'd go insane if I had to deal with WF's tellers and their ridiculous rules on every single deposit.
Give Me Some Money!!!
Don't You Want My Money? I Sure Do!
Things that make me question my choice in banks:
I could devote several capsules to my run-ins with Wells Fargo. But the more recent ones all center around deposit snafus and associated customer service (or lack thereof).
One time my dad wrote me a check but addressed it to "Ms. Mighty Hubby's Name" instead of Mighty My Legal Last Name. Notwithstanding the fact the I use my maiden name, have my WF account in that name, and that name is also my father's last name, they refused to let me deposit the check. I had to tear it up and prevail upon my poor, old-school dad to issue me a new check in the correct name.
My next experience of note involved depositing a check for slightly over $5,000. The issue this time was the amount of time WF froze the check. WF quoted me a hold time of 10 business days. Not 10 days, ten business days. I made the deposit the day after Christmas and they finally granted me access to "my" money on January 9th.They claimed it was because it was not drawn on a local bank. Hell-oooo? Wells Fargo is this gigundo national presence. Wells Fargo has branches in the town where this bank's headquarters is, less than 100 miles from my home. The issuing bank has branch offices within 15 miles of downtown Sacramento. It's not like the check was written off The Bank of Far, Far Eastern Outer Mongolia.
I still had a modicum of Christmas spirit left in me so I handed them the check and went off to bide my time (and pocketbook) till the 9th.
Fast-forward two weeks. Another check arrives in the mail. It's a life insurance payout on one of my dad's policies. It's from Prudential Insurance. It's official looking and typed. It's drawn on Wachovia Bank, NA. It's a bit less than $5,000 but I don't take any chances. I want -- no, I need -- this money pronto.
I've learned my lesson. I take nothing for granted. Before heading over to my neighborhood WF branch I Google Wachovia bank locations in Sacramento -- just in case. Yes! There's one 6.23 miles away. If it comes down to cashing the check, I'm definitely willing to drive that distance.
What's it gonna be, WF?
I start with Wells Fargo first. I hand my check to the teller, who looks about 12. I say, "I'd like to deposit this check, but not if you're going to put a 10-day hold on it." The teller doesn't know what kind of hold they will put on it. She calls over the uber-teller, who's maybe all of 19. The uber-teller runs the check through a machine to check the routing number of the issuing bank.
Good news! The hold this time is only going to be 5 business days, which puts me in touch with my money one week from today. Bonus, I can access $100 of it tomorrow morning. Wow! This is a big improvement over last time. This is real banking, Wells Fargo style!
I ask them how they determine the length of time to hold a check and whether checks like this one, slightly under $5,000 go through the ATM. I casually mention that I often make deposits of $1,500 to $2,500 through the ATM and they clear the next day. I'm just trying to understand how the system works.
Now comes my favorite part: The uber-teller explains to me that Wells Fargo's ATMs have different rules than inside the branches. "Ok, so how can I find out what the ATM policy is so I can make an informed decision about depositing my check in here vs. going outside and putting it in the ATM?"
This question is obviously not in the teller manual. But the uber-teller answers as best she can. There is no "ATM Department" per se. I see. So basically, ATM machines formulate their own policies? Too bad the ATMs aren't making the policies for the tellers. They'd be doing Wells Fargo customers a huge favor.
I should also mention that during this exchange the 12-year-old teller refuses to make eye contact with me. I was being super polite, I swear I was! Then, she covers her mouth with her hand and actually yawns! If my account balance hadn't been so puny I would definitely have said something sarcastic. This is obviously a learning experience for her. Can she possibly be that bored? I know I'm getting pretty tired of this horseshit. Maybe she is too.
In the end I take the check back and drive the 6.23 miles to Wachovia. The difference is like night and day, or debit and credit in bank parlance. Every customer in the branch is acknowledged with a smile. The staff go out of their way to be helpful, even though I'm not a Wachovia customer. They cash my check. I'm in and out within 10 minutes.
I can't help but notice the signage announcing "Wachovia is now part of Wells Fargo." Obviously no one has informed the staff back at the Wells Fargo Freeport Blvd. branch. The Wachovia staff know what's up, tho. They dread being subsumed into Wells Fargo. Like me, they fear their customers are in for a rude awakening. Too bad it's not the other way around.
Who's Wooing Who?
All factual information related to the merger comes from www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2008/09/29/daily46.html
No surprise, the merge-er is Wells Fargo and the merge-ee is Wachovia. Wells Fargo is one of the few major U.S. banks that has remained consistently profitable during the credit crisis, while Wachovia struggled due to investments in mortgage-backed securities.
Well, duh! I wouldn't dare try to get WF to loan me any money. I have enough trouble getting them to deposit my checks!!
The Merger: By the Numbers
The acquisition of Wachovia by Wells Fargo will create the largest bank in the United States, surpassing Bank of America for that distinction.Wells Fargo and Wachovia will have the largest deposit base in the country, creating a coast-to-coast banking franchise for consumers.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) has $609 billion in assets, $418 billion in net loans, $339 billion in deposits, $151 billion in mutual fund assets under management and 3,327 branches in 24 states.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia (NYSE:WB) has $812 billion in assets, $485 billion in net loans, $448 billion in deposits, $107 billion in mutual fund assets under management and 3,348 branches in 21 states.
The combined company will have $1.37 trillion in assets, $713 billion in U.S. deposits and 6,675 bank branches, 12,227 ATMs, 26.2 million retail household customers and 15.7 online customers.The combined bank will have a presence in 18 of the 20 largest metro areas and 6,400 employees.
The combined company will have retail banks in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Wells Fargo now enters retail banking for first time in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Wells Fargo already has a presence in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas (pending), California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog
- A Wells Fargo-Wachovia merger: What it means - Philadelphia Business Journal:
A Wells Fargo-Wachovia merger: What it means