The Ascendancy of Bean Counters
By Denny Hatch
In the first week of February, I received a cheap double postcard from First Union Bank addressed to Denny Hatch Associates, Inc. The message:
NOTICE OF OVERDRAWN ACCOUNT
Our records as of 01/24/2003 show an overdraft of $5.00 remains on your account 2********4903. Please make a deposit right away to avoid possible collection activity and account closing. You can obtain statement information at most First Union ATMs, or contact your financial center, Commercial Relationships Manager or Private Client Group officer.
I freaked out and checked Quicken. We had plenty of money in the corporate, personal and savings accounts at First Union.
It turns out that last year First Union sold my wife, Peggy, on the idea that a "Business High Performance Money Market" account would be a good place to stash extra cash. Interest would be paid on the balance and we had overdraft privileges.
At the end of 2002, we had not used the new account nor had we responded to the bank's renewal efforts. Yet we were threatened with "collection activity" because we hadn't paid a $5 renewal fee.
On top of this, I have a European client who prefers to wire transfer my monthly retainer rather than send a check. Every month First Union deducts a $20 wire transfer fee from my retainer.
One block away from where we live, a bright, new Commerce Bank opened in October with free hot dogs, sodas, a clown, and a Philadelphia Phillies baseball player autographing his picture. New depositors were offered free checks and banking hours that included evenings and weekends. Out of inertia I stuck with First Union.
Now after 10 years with First Union (and its predecessor, CoreStates), I have a new bank. With a $10 wire transfer fee, I have just put $120 in my pocket (assuming the Europeans do not fire me in the next 12 months). Plus I get a free safe deposit box, free coin counting service and interest paid on my personal balance because I'm over 55. The president of Commerce Bank said in an interview that First Union was a gift that keeps on giving.