Ever since the Federal Reserve approved Capital One’s takeover of ING Direct, customers have feared that their beloved bright-orange online bank would change. Turns out they were right to be scared, as a recent notice is circulating announcing that the “ING Direct” name will disappear, probably next year. What else is going to change?
On that subject matter, the banks aren’t saying much—giving customers, who started freaking out last summer when the possibility of a merger first made news, even more reason to panic.
Tuesday afternoon, customers of ING Direct and ShareBuilder (an investing site owned by ING Direct) received an e-mail officially alerting them that ING Direct has “joined the Capital One team.” The message assures customers that they will still be able to access accounts, pay their bills online, and whatnot. Business as usual.
It also plays up a couple of new perks available due to the merger:
• For starters, coming this spring, you’ll have access to CheckMate, our new remote deposit service. You can deposit checks directly into your ING DIRECT accounts anywhere from your computer or the ING DIRECT mobile app.
• If you use Electric Orange checking or MONEY, you’ll be able to withdraw cash at any of Capital One’s over 2,000 fee-free ATMs — that’s in addition to the 35,000 free Allpoint ATMs you can currently access.
What about the downsides of being taken over by Capital One? None of that info is presented in the message, for obvious reasons. But at an ING Direct-Capital One FAQ page, customers will discover that “ING Direct” is a dead man walking. The name itself will soon disappear:
ING Group will allow a one-year transitional use of “ING DIRECT” from February 17, 2012. So, yes, our name will gradually change over time (and it’s going to take some getting used to for all of us).
[UPDATE: Capital One reached out to Moneyland and explained that it simply isn't allowed to keep the "ING Direct" name. The official statement is this: "The name will gradually have to change over time. Legally, due to the acquisition, we're only allowed to use the ING Direct name for about a year after closing."]
What’s also noteworthy is what’s not on this FAQ page. Namely, there is no guarantee that ING Direct’s customer-friendly policies—in particular, the near absence of fees and balance requirements—will remain in place. As someone who knows many ING Direct customers (and who happens to be one personally), I can assure the banks involved here that the absolutely most Frequently Asked Question is and will continue to be: Are any new fees or requirements going to be added, potentially negating the reasons I started banking with ING Direct in the first place?
On this topic, Capital One says it has “no current plans” to make changes to ING Direct accounts. But that’s not the same as guaranteeing that it won’t make any. A statement from the company last week noted that “the transaction is expected to have minimal impact on customers. ING Direct will continue to provide the same high quality customer experience, products, account servicing and functionality to its customers.” But “minimal impact” is a subjective term, and it’s not the same as “no impact.”
The ING Direct “Savers” blog is known for posts that mock banks that hammer customers with fees. Recent example: A call-out to readers asking them to end the sentence, “You need checking fees like you need …” But the blog is mum on the Capital One merger, offering no insight as to what customers can expect down the line in terms of fees.
Last summer, in a Q&A with the New York Times, a Capitol One spokeswoman offered this non-answer when the subject came up regarding the addition of new fees or requirements:
Everything we do as we integrate our businesses will be thoughtful and surefooted with a focus on sustaining and building that customer loyalty. We will focus on the customers, channels, products, and pricing strategies that build the best long-term customer relationships and deliver the best cost of funds.
Understandably, customers started freaking out when the Capital One takeover first came up, and they’re continuing to freak out now. Here’s a sampling of posts from this week at ING Direct’s Facebook page:
It’s like the alternative ending to “It’s a Wonderful Life”: Goodbye George Bailey’s bank, Hello Mr. Potter’s bank.
As a rule, I don’t do business with companies that treat their customers badly. For almost 10 years now, I have enjoyed doing business with ING as they set the gold standard for customer service. I am closing my seven accounts this morning before Capital One can get its sticky fingers on my money.
As a customer of ING and Sharebuilder, this day might be looked upon as the end of both companies that made them so good. Have we ever seen a merger that actually benefited the small guys?
Customers are also Tweeting about the merger, sometimes with the help of colorful language. For example:
Just received a kind email to inform me that my favorite bank (INGDirect) just got f***** by Capital One.
George Bailey would never use that sort of language. But he’d probably be on the same page.