M&I-BMO Harris changeover leaves some customers in lurch

BMO Harris Bank’s expansion in Indianapolis and other markets via its acquisition of M&I Bank is off to a rocky start as many customers still are unable to access their online banking accounts.

BMO Harris parent Bank of Montreal bought Wisconsin-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp. for $4.1 billion in July 2011. It formally unveiled the rebranding to customers when branches opened Tuesday following the Columbus Day holiday.

BMO Harris warned customers they would not have access to M&I online and mobile banking services from Friday evening until Tuesday morning, when the switch to BMO Harris was complete.

But glitches caused by the transition extended into Wednesday, judging from the slew of negative comments BMO Harris customers posted on the company’s Facebook page.

“This change has been a terrible experience!” wrote one angry customer. “Better make it right or you’ll be losing customers.”

Alisha Valentine, who works at a market research firm in Carmel, said she’s already decided to leave the bank.

After trying to no avail Tuesday to reach customer service representatives online and by phone, and by visiting a branch in Carmel, Valentine left frustrated and opened a new account at Teachers Credit Union.

“[Tuesday] was supposed to be the day,” she said. “And nobody can do what they hoped to be able to do. It’s frustrating to not see what you’re accustomed to seeing.”

BMO Harris hopes to have the problems resolved “as quickly as possible,” spokesman Jim Kappel said in an e-mailed statement.

“During our systems conversion, some customers have encountered difficulties logging into online banking,” he said. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank our customers for their understanding. We ask those customers experiencing problems to visit our branches or ATMs.”  

The problems seem to be widespread.

Another customer posted on BMO Harris’ Facebook page that, like Valentine, he spent more than an hour on the phone and made several trips to his local branch in an attempt to get answers.

“I will definitely be looking to take my business elsewhere,” he wrote.

Valentine said she’s been a customer of BMO Harris since its days as the locally owned First Indiana Bank.

M&I entered the Indianapolis market in 2008 when it acquired First Indiana Corp. for $529 million.

M&I had about 30 branches in the Indianapolis area and controlled about 6 percent of the market's bank deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The bank had nearly $1.8 billion in local deposits before the acquisition and ranked sixth among area banks in terms of employment, with about 400 workers.

BMO Harris had 10 branches and 200 employees in Indianapolis before its purchase of M&I. It’s now the area’s third-largest bank in terms of employees.

Overall, M&I had about 350 offices in seven states, with more than half of those in Wisconsin.

When customers walked into the former M&I branches Tuesday, they saw new signage and “BMO blue” paint on refreshed bank lobbies signifying the shift.

Some patrons weren't impressed.

“It was truly ugly yesterday, as was my mood,” another BMO Harris customer posted. “It takes a long time to build a good customer, and but a few minutes to destroy the same. You have to do a large job of confidence building.”

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