News Column

Chase Puts Money on Technology

Sept. 10, 2012

Doreen Hemlock

chase

At Chase's new cash machine in Tamarac, you can order up more than just $20 bills. You can choose fives and tens or even singles, whatever mix you need to cover that snack or tip the valet.

The automated teller can even cash your check, if you so desire.

Cutting-edge technology is just one way that JP Morgan Chase is trying to distinguish itself, as the bank aggressively expands across Florida.

The New York-based giant established a presence in the state in September 2008 by buying the operations of failed Washington Mutual in a government-brokered deal. It took over 233 WaMu branches in Florida and renamed them Chase in April 2009, after a $92 million investment in upgrading and remodeling.

Since then, Chase has been growing at a fast clip. It now boasts 318 branches in Florida and plans to top 400 branches by 2015, including at least a dozen more in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"Our aspiration is to be one of the top two or three banks in Florida. It may take three years or five years, but we want to get there," said Guillermo Castillo, Chase's president for middle market banking in South Florida.

To reach that goal, Chase is counting partly on technology, In 2010, it became the first major U.S. bank to launch mobile check-deposits, which let customers take a picture of a check by cellphone and then send the photo to the bank for deposit. The technology eliminates the need to visit a branch or ATM.

Now, Chase is rolling out a cash machine that offers a mix of bills beyond 20s, check-cashing and other features. The machine is featured at a branch just opened at 6399 West Commercial Blvd. in Tamarac, said Fernando Ruiz, a vice president for retail banking in South Florida.

Chase also is offering new products and services. In July, it launched a new re-loadable, pre-paid card named Liquid that analysts call a game-changer. The card carries no fees when used at Chase branches and ATMs.

Plus, Chase is adding private-client services at some branches, which give affluent customers the kind of one-on-one financial advice that usually is reserved for millionaires, said Castillo.

Analysts say Chase stands out for its broad approach to Florida banking, from reaching out to Latinos on Spanish-language radio for its Liquid card to attracting youth with high-tech banking.

"Their expansion plans are for real and throughout the entire community, not just in the affluent areas," said Ken Thomas, an independent banking analyst in Miami. "Some of this comes from the mass-market base of Washington Mutual, but they understand that our South Florida community is an amalgamation of many, many neighborhoods" in diverse market segments.

Chase is targeting South Florida for growth, because the area is one of country's richest for deposits and hosts a large and growing population. Chase now holds about 6 percent of deposits in the area, trailing Wells Fargo and Bank of America, with more than 15 percent each, government reports show.

Growth in South Florida means jobs. The bank generally spends $5 million to $7 million on a new branch, which usually employs eight to 12 people, Ruiz said. Chase plans to open nearly two dozen branches in South Florida by the end of next year, likely adding at least 150 jobs in the area.



Source: (c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services


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