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Changes at Fidelity prompt fees

January 14, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

When Sonja Shearer opened her quarterly bank statement from Fidelity Bank last Thursday, she said she was surprised to find a $30 charge.

A trip to the bank, formerly Home Federal Savings Bank, revealed her savings account had been switched over to a money market account. Instead of a minimum balance of $250 needed to avoid a monthly charge, a minimum balance of $2,500 was required, said Shearer, 56, of Hagerstown.

Fidelity President Brian Gaeng said Tuesday that Home Federal converted to Fidelity Bank at the end of October, but some people may just be getting their quarterly statements and noticing changes.

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"If there was something we did in error, we're going to make the customer whole. That's our Number 1 priority," Gaeng said.

Shearer said a bank official told her that her account would be reimbursed the $30 and switched her account to one similar to the one she had when the bank was Home Federal.

"Any fees charged in error, we're going to take care of those," Gaeng said.

"Any time you go through a merger of this nature and you're dealing with thousands of customers and thousands of accounts and higher numbers of transactions, there are going to be some challenges," Gaeng said.

The bank sent multiple mailings to customers about the merger, including information mapping how Home Federal accounts would switch over to Fidelity accounts, Gaeng said.

"As you and I both know, sometimes people get things in the mail and people don't read them," Gaeng said.

"We've gone to great lengths to give customers the benefit of the doubt, even if the error was not solely on our shoulders, because that's our business," Gaeng said.

Gaeng said he didn't know how many complaints the bank had received.

When asked how many customer accounts had been closed because of problems arising from the conversion, Gaeng said "I would certainly hope that they would not do that."

"I'm not aware of any situation where we've not been able to make right a situation that possibly was done in error," he said.

Shearer said Monday that she was going to keep her account at Fidelity because she had a Christmas club account at the bank.

"I'm not going to do anything until October. I'm just watching my statements better," Shearer said.

Fidelity has seven banks in Washington County and three in Allegany County, Gaeng said. The headquarters is in downtown Hagerstown at 128 W. Washington St.

If customers have questions about their accounts or other bank services, they can call Fidelity's headquarters at 301-733-6300.

If someone wants to talk directly to President Brian Gaeng, he said they can call him at 301-745-5829.

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