Denver Direct: _UMB and _UMBER: “Count on More (Fees)”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

_UMB and _UMBER: “Count on More (Fees)”

Opinion by Gerald Trumbule

When choosing a bank, I picked the one closest to my house. Way back in 1972, that was Mountain States Bank on Colfax at Gilpin. Over the years I had various experiences with this bank, good and bad. Once when I was refinancing my building, the president of the bank came out for an inspection. He was practically drooling over the prospect of my default (after that we called it Mountain Snakes). No default, and the bank was convenient, so I continued on. During the 34 years that I was a customer at Mountain States, I estimate that I put at least $5 million through the bank with my various business activities.
When Mountain States was sold to UMB in 2006, I was told not to worry, it was still a “family-owned” bank.

In June of 2013 I received the following from UMB. Note that the name “Small Business Free Checking Account” was being changed to “Small Business Checking Account”. Hmmm.

Further reading reveals that there will be a $10/month fee for each such account, unless a minimum balance is retained. And note the “hope that you will be pleased with these changes”. In fact the brochure was such an obvious insult to the intelligence of any customer that it actually pissed me off. My 5 accounts were going to cost me $50/month – $600 dollars a year! No way.

Yes, way. Although I met with Clint Burnette (Client Relations Manager – very nice guy) on two occasions to try to get the fees waived, and each time he would go to the back to consult with “the boss” to see if they might make an exception, (like a used car salesman checking your offer with the manager), the answer was always no – no exceptions.
So I cancelled all 5 accounts. It took a few months to get the accounts extricated from auto-pay, etc., and I had to have new checks printed, but FirstBank, on the same block on Colfax, was happy to have my business.
UMB on Colfax had no customers when I was there yesterday.
Yesterday I was at UMB for the final account closures, and Clint happened to come out of his office and stopped to say hello/goodbye. Commenting on the fact that I was the only customer in the bank, I said “looks like the new fees are a good way to kill a bank. I was just at FirstBank next door and they have 20 customers there right now.” He smiled and wished me luck. What’s a Customer Relations Manager to do?
I’ve talked with 6 employees of UMB about the effect these fees are having on the customers, and they all agreed that it was an adverse effect. But management even brags about it:

One person who doesn’t lose a lot of sleep over these problems is Michael Hagedorn, vice chairman and chief financial officer at UMB Financial Corp., a $15.7-billion asset bank in Kansas City, Missouri. UMB is unique: In 2011 and 2012, the bank derived well over 50 percent of its operating revenue from a diverse set of fee-based businesses, including various payments products and services, asset servicing and investment management.

He may not be losing sleep but he is certainly losing customers. Maybe they have a new model for making money without customers.