If only I knew to set a hashtag for my bank. They don't tweet. That should have told me something in and of itself.
The bank is filing for bankruptcy. Didn't know that until now. CEO James Cracchiolo earns $19mm per year in total comp. Heck, EVP of Technology Glen Salow earns $4mm per year, and I thought he had issues because they couldn't seem to allow statement downloads in Excel (or CSV).
A Brief History
I've had the same checking account for more than a decade. It was an American Express checking account that offered no ATM fees. It might have been the first such bank to waive fees. The downside? There were no branches. That didn't bother me. I hardly went into a branch.
In 2005, American Express spun off its investment division, of which personal checking was part, becoming Ameriprise Bank FSB. Aside from the URL change, everything remained relatively the same. It was highly functional, even though they started placing limits on the number of ATM reimbursements. But, that's the beauty of checking accounts. They are a high friction switch; it's why banks waive fees when you do direct deposit. They don't want your money. They want YOUR HABITS. Have direct deposit; you're likely to use bill pay, the ATM, a whole myriad of habits that make it such a pain to leave. It's another reason I like Facebook. Establishing your online identity is a pain, might as well tap into their network. Anyway...
Ameriprise wasn't perfect, but it was good enough (lesson for Bing), and even though they couldn't seem to figure out how to let you download your data, I stuck with it. It's why I still pay Typepad instead of host my own Wordpress.
Because I use online bill pay, I do not log-in every day. I logged-in today. Here's what I saw.
Given that I watched "The Game" over the weekend, this message didn't help. Try as I might, I couldn't access the information. So, I did what any over 30 does. I called support. Web support said all was fine with the site, so they transferred me to back office support. I love Filipinas, but when my lifeOS is crashing, if you have an accent from one of two outsourced call centers, well, I'd prefer a closed for the evening message not a clear statement about prioritization.
What I learned - my account was closed last Friday. Any one with a personal checking account had theirs closed. Any balance was presumably sent to your postal address. Regular mail too. Not certified.
I was read a statement by the call center rep given to her which tried to explain that Amerirprise didn't want to comply with a new law and as a result had to close its checking.
Unlike most technology advanced businesses, I cannot access my past information. I still have an "account," but it is blank. No past activity is available. No statements. Nothing. If you didn't happen to do an export on Friday, you were screwed. I'm told all my bill pay information exists, but I don't have access to it.
If I want access to my data, I have to open up a new account. A brokerage account "with check writing functionality." Great. Let's do it. I'll put in $5 just to get access to my bill pay. Sorry. That has to be done through an advisor.
Getting in touch with an advisor is like stepping into an MLM. Then again, should you have to open an account to access what any rational company and reasonably decent one would offer as a courtesy?
Mark Fidelman wrote a nice piece in Forbes on the above (well, not my story but his own). Unlike me, he actually checks his physical mail. Ameriprise apparently sent out a total of TWO whopping notices. Fidelman also experienced, like me, that NOWHERE on the Ameriprise site did they say anything about the upcoming change.
You'd think a company that wants you to continue doing business with them would go out of their way to transition you. At the very least, they would have a light-box upon log-in with the alert. American Express is changing the layout of their home screen, and if you don't check the box, they make sure you know. And, that's just a cosmetic change... not, "Hey, we're going to make it look like you got your identity stolen. And, act like it too."
Fidelman uncovered information disclosed in Ameriprise's Q2 2012 filings about the change. And as he says, "Why?" (One of his best is why are they getting into hospitality management.)
In my case, it's "How?" How could a company that plans on staying in business be this badly run? How can't they give users access to their information? How could they not send out any emails? How could they not put anything on their site?
I understand how, but this isn't 1986. It's an age of incredible connectedness, of innovation. And, really, Ameriprise is one of many financial institutions. It's not Facebook. It's not Google. It's not Apple. It's not indispensable. Oh, how time's have changed.