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Rough 1st day after Flagstar takeover

December 4, 2018

The transition for many customers from Wells Fargo to Michigan-based Flagstar Bancorp didn’t go smoothly.

Instead, many of Flagstar’s new customers : some in Fort Wayne : lined up at branches and took to social media Monday to express frustration with problems ranging from not being able to access online banking services to accounts showing zero balances.

“I am very upset and tried to get in to talk to them today about many problems,” Jeff Lawson said in an email. ”(The) branch on Dupont and Coldwater was standing-room-only full of other upset customers. I left and went across the driveway to PNC and signed up (for a new bank account) there.”

Joe Hansbarger, a customer from Angola, tried unsuccessfully for hours to access his online account. Each time he tried to log in, Hansbarger said, he received an error message directing him to call a customer service number.

The number led to a recording acknowledging “technical difficulties” and alerting customers that some deposits made over the weekend might not be available until today. The call then disconnected, and callers were not able to leave messages.

“As a (video) gamer, I am used to seeing roll-out issues on the day of a big release,” Hansbarger said. “The difference, however, is people’s lives are in limbo waiting to access funds they need to survive and, unlike (video game company) EA, who runs the risk of customers demanding their money back for an unplayable game, Flagstar already has all of our money.”

Wells Fargo announced in June it would reduce the number of its retail bank branches, and Flagstar acquired 52 locations : including 11 local branches. The deal included 130 million in loans.

Todd McLaughlin, Flagstar’s senior vice president and director of branch banking, told The Journal Gazette last month his bank would work to ensure a smooth transition “with as little disruption as possible for the Wells Fargo customers.”

The bank acknowledged problems in a statement Monday, but officials said “the vast majority” of the nearly 200,000 customers making the transition in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio experienced no issues.

If Flagstar is able to hold onto all those account holders, it will more than double its customer base.

Flagstar spokeswoman Susan Cherry-Bergeson said late Monday afternoon she expected the problems would be resolved soon but declined to answer specific questions.

“We take our responsibility to customers very seriously, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience,” she said in the emailed statement. “We are working quickly and diligently to solve online and call center access issues.”

Rod Lasley, vice president for products and services at the Indiana Bankers Association, said some problems are common for transitions from large financial institutions such as Wells Fargo to Flagstar.

“Integrating client data from one platform to another does not always go smoothly, as some of the data fields do not always match correctly,” he said in an email. “Customers should make the bank aware of any issues, but also display patience as the banks work through this conversion.”

Lasley said he was not aware of any calls made to his organization regarding Wells Fargo or Flagstar.

Former Wells Fargo account holders attached to the affected branches automatically became Flagstar customers Friday. Flagstar officials said bank cards would be issued for its new customers, but several posts to social media Monday indicated they had not been received.

Flagstar issued a statement Monday morning announcing it had closed on the deal to acquire the Wells Fargo branches.

“We are excited to welcome the customers and employees of the 52 Wells Fargo Bank branches who joined the Flagstar family over the weekend,” said Alessandro DiNello, Flagstar Bancorp president and CEO, said in the statement.

“We are eager to bring Flagstar’s brand of custom-crafted banking solutions to our new customers : all delivered by our new team of talented bankers. They share our tradition of superior customer service and commitment to the community. Our thanks to the teams on both sides who worked so hard to bring this transaction to a successful conclusion.”

mleblanc@jg.net

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