Bank transfer is bumpy for some new M&T Bank customers

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 that their bank accounts did not exist – after the bank’s new owners moved their accounts online. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

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

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

Keegan said Wednesday that 40% of new customers were able to “successfully log in and activate their accounts,” which he called “very strong.” The percentage had jumped to 50% on Thursday. The other half of customers are those who don’t use online banking or 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 encountered problems during the transition.

But on social media and in interviews with VTDigger, some Vermont customers described alarming error messages and issues, coupled with long wait times to reach M&T customer service.

“It’s just a colossal nuisance, especially after they’ve gone to such lengths to cover all the bases,” said Georgianne Mora, freelance graphic designer and technical writer at South Londonderry.

In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Mora said she had been unable to access her bank account for more than a day – which is essential as a freelancer to check that payments are coming in. She tried to log into her bank account through the M&T website on Tuesday morning, but received a message that her information did not match their records.

She called Wednesday and waited on the phone for more than an hour, she said. A message on M&T’s website says the company is experiencing “unusually high call volumes”.

Kelley Reed, director of regulatory and consumer affairs at the Vermont 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 only regulates state-chartered banks headquartered in Vermont, it directs M&T customers to the Federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the New York office.

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

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

She has since contacted a customer service representative who helped her access her accounts.

Other customers, like Elizabeth Kruska, a Woodstock lawyer, said the only way to confirm their bank accounts were still there was to go to an M&T Bank ATM.

Kruska said she hasn’t been able to log into her accounts since the M&T transition. M&T’s online system did not recognize his social security number, date of birth, or even the number of the debit card that was sent to him two weeks ago.

Once she contacted a customer service representative on Wednesday, they told her to try logging back into her account later that day, which failed. She was put on hold for an hour on Thursday morning before she had to go to work.

Kyle Tansley, who lives in Burlington and works in the marketing department of a cybersecurity firm, said he was already planning to close his People’s United savings account due to earlier frustrations with the bank’s mobile app and its savings and borrowing rates.

On Tuesday, Tansley said he initially managed to link his new account with online bank Ally to his M&T account. However, an error message appeared and his account was unlinked when he tried to transfer money to Ally’s account.

He was eventually helped by customer service, but he said the funds transfer had been problematic, limiting it to $10 on one attempt and $900 on another — well below his daily maximum of $2,000.

Frustration exhausts him. “It becomes difficult to distinguish between incompetence or similar service disruptions and the crafting of malicious policies intended to force customers to stay with a bank,” Tansley said.

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