Blog: Banking transfer is bumpy for some new M&T Bank customers – vtdigger.org

The People’s United Bank branch in Williston in July 2021. Some former People’s United Bank customers had a bumpy ride this week — including error messages indicating their bank accounts didn’t exist — after the bank’s new owners transitioned their online accounts. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Some former People’s United Bank customers had a bumpy ride this week — including error messages indicating their bank accounts didn’t exist — after the bank’s new owners transitioned their online accounts. 

M&T Bank, which acquired People’s in April, transferred the accounts into a combined banking system over Labor Day weekend, according to Michael Keegan, head of community banking for M&T Bank.

Keegan on Wednesday said that 40% of new customers had been able to “successfully get online and activate their accounts,” which he characterized as a “really strong number.” The percentage had climbed to 50% by Thursday. The other half of customers includes those who don’t use online banking or who haven’t tried to log in.

He declined to disclose the bank’s total number of customers as well as the number of people who have encountered problems during the transition. 

But on social media and in interviews with VTDigger, some customers in Vermont described alarming error messages and glitches, coupled with long wait times to reach M&T’s customer service.

“It’s just a colossal annoyance, especially after they made such a big deal of having every base covered,” said Georgianne Mora, a freelance graphic designer and technical editor from South Londonderry.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Mora said she hadn’t been able to access her bank account for more than a day — which is critical as a freelancer to verify payments are coming through. She tried to log into her bank account through the M&T website on Tuesday morning but got a message that her information didn’t match their records. 

She called on Wednesday and waited on the phone for over an hour, she said. A message on the M&T website notes the company is experiencing “unusually high call volumes.”

Kelley Reed, regulatory and consumer affairs director at Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation, said the department has also received complaints about the merger. M&T, an FDIC-insured bank regulated by the New York Department of Financial Services, now has 38 branches in Vermont.

But because the department regulates only state-chartered banks with Vermont headquarters, it is directing M&T customers to the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the New York office. 

Keegan said that the transition will continue for the next week or two but the bank will still allow customers to use their existing People’s United cards until Sept. 20.

Mora said that although M&T has sent a “mountain” of materials over the past three months describing what would happen during the transition, she doesn’t believe that the company was actually prepared for it.

She’s since gotten through to a customer service representative who helped her access her accounts.

Other customers, such as Elizabeth Kruska, an attorney in Woodstock, said that the only way they could confirm their bank accounts were still there was by visiting an M&T Bank ATM.

Kruska said she hadn’t been able to log in to her accounts since the M&T transition. The M&T online system did not recognize her social security number, birthdate or even the number of the debit card sent to her two weeks ago.

Once she got through to a customer service representative on Wednesday, they told her to try logging back into her account later in the day, which was unsuccessful. She was on hold for an hour Thursday morning before she had to go to work. 

Kyle Tansley, who lives in Burlington and works in the marketing department at a cybersecurity firm, said that he was already planning on closing his People’s United savings account because of previous frustrations with the bank’s mobile app and its savings and borrowing rates. 

On Tuesday, Tansley said that he was initially successful in linking his new account with the online-only bank Ally to his M&T account. However, an error message appeared and his account was unlinked when he tried to transfer money into the Ally account. 

He eventually was helped by customer service, but he said transferring funds has been glitchy, limiting him to $10 during one attempt and $900 during another — far less than his $2,000 daily maximum. 

The frustration is wearing on him. “It gets hard to distinguish between incompetence or like service outages versus malicious policymaking that is meant to force customers to stay with a bank,” Tansley said.

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