Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


First Federal Bank switch confuses some patrons

First Federal Bank officially converted to Associated Bank last week, a switch that confused some customers and led to a number of problems involving new check cards and long lines.

Associated Banc-Corp, a Wisconsin-based bank that has focused on commercial banking throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, acquired First Federal Bank in October 2004.

According to Jon Drayna, who is in charge of corporate communications for Associated Bank, the management of both First Federal Bank and Associated Bank decided to merge the two banks after receiving approval from the banks’ shareholders.


“We saw a wonderful opportunity to make a leap forward,” Drayna said.

Drayna said Associated Bank wanted to expand its reach to include customers with private bank accounts.

According to an Associated Bank employee who wished to remain anonymous, many students were unaware of the switch in ownership.

“I really think they should have put more signs within the bank itself and done radio ads telling students what was going on,” the employee said.

University of Wisconsin junior Jeremy Parker said he was confused when he went to cash his paycheck earlier this week.

“[First Federal] had a different name and different deposit slips,” Parker said. “I was wondering if I went into the wrong bank.”

The employee said notices were sent to First Federal customers in the mail, but students who sign up for accounts using their home address did not receive letters at their campus addresses.

New check cards were mailed to First Federal customers in non-descript, white envelopes for security reasons, but many customers threw them away thinking it was junk mail, she added.

Parker said banks should have all of their customers’ addresses, including those customers who use more than one address.

“College students move all the time,” Parker said. “They should have called all of them informing them of their name change.”

According to the Associated Bank employee, students have also faced several problems withdrawing money from their Associated Bank bank accounts.

“A lot of my customers have been coming in asking why their debit cards don’t work,” she said.

Associated Bank had virtually no campaign to make the switch visible to the public, the employee said.

However, Drayna said brochures were available in each of the banks’ branches. Associated Bank has made every possible effort to make their customers aware of the changes in ownership, he added.

“The information certainly has been widely distributed,” Drayna said. “It’s unfortunate if peoples’ important bank mail went home. We’ve been very proactive explaining what the changes mean for our customers.”

Parker, who has had a savings account with First Federal since he was 10 years old, said the switch was not made visible to the public.

“I go in there almost every week,” Parker said. “I had no idea they were switching over.”

According to the Associated Bank employee, a new system is partly to blame for the mix-up. She said the new system involves more paperwork, which has slowed down transactions and caused lines to stretch outside the bank’s doors last week.

“It used to take 15 minutes to change an address,” the employee said. “Now, to change an address you have to sit down with a personal banker.”

According to Drayna, employees were trained on the new system for a couple of weeks and they are confident customers will be pleased.

Drayna said he thinks the change in ownership will be convenient for students who need banking both at home and on campus because of the increased number of facilities in Wisconsin.

“We’re expecting the positives to shine through,” Drayna said.

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