NationsBank Corp. is getting less than a warm welcome from some of its new customers in the Southwest.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based company officially brought the New Mexico operations of the former Boatmen's Bancshares under the NationsBank um- brella Aug. 18, putting out NationsBank signs and rolling out NationsBank products and services to the new customer base.
But a storm of opposition greeted the $240 billion-asset company. Business and political leaders protested its handling of customers and employees of what was known as the Sunwest franchise.
The City of Albuquerque said it would terminate its banking contract with NationsBank a year early, putting more than $20 million of deposits and a $450 million investment portfolio out to bid.
The main sources of contention are an unspecified number of layoffs and the closing of eight branches, said state Sen. Roman Maes of Santa Fe. Increased fees are also a concern.
"It's considered greed," he said. "The acquisition costs are coming off the backs of the people here. These guys (NationsBank executives) are cold as steel. They have no emotions and no feelings for people."
Sen. Maes, who operates a real estate company in New Mexico, said he has pulled four business accounts out of NationsBank in protest and is encouraging others to do the same. Moreover, he is considering introducing legislation that would punish companies that like NationsBank come into the state and lay off New Mexico workers.
Interstate banking is not new to New Mexico. Several out-of-state organizations have bought their way into the state, laying off workers and consolidating operations.
But those transitions went smoothly because banking officials were honest and up-front about their plans, said Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. NationsBank has not been equally forthcoming, he said.
At first NationsBank officials said layoffs would total about 100. Mayor Chavez said he has information that the number is more than four times that now. But NationsBank officials have "stonewalled" his inquiries about the real number of layoffs, he said.
"I'm trying to run a city. I need to know where jobs are coming from and where they're going to," Mayor Chavez said.
Pam McQuitty, a spokeswoman for NationsBank, said it had not tallied up how many people it had laid off in New Mexico.
And she pointed out that layoffs are part of the business of banking today.
"Consolidation is one of the byproducts of the current evolution of banking," she said. "It is necessary in order for a bank to effectively compete." u