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Wachovia adds ATMs, employees to local branches

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Wachovia branches throughout the Southern Crescent are being outfitted this winter with more modern ATMs, according to officials with Wells Fargo Company, which acquired Wachovia early this year. But ATMs are not the only new additions.

While officials would not disclose the cost of installing the new automated teller machines, Jim Lawrence, Wachovia's community bank president for Henry and Clayton counties, said the ATMs are a part of improvements across the company, which include expanded financial products and services, due to the merger.

With the added offerings, he said, there has been a need to add new employees.

So far, this quarter, the company has hired more than 20 employees to join its south-metro branches, which combine to employ more than 180 area residents.

"We're so happy to be making positive contributions to the economy of the Southern Crescent in difficult times," Lawrence said.

Franz Kenny, a McDonough resident, is one of those new hires.

Kenny joined the staff at the Keys Ferry Wachovia branch in McDonough in November. The New York City native and father of two said he had been unemployed for more than a year when the job opportunity arose.

"It was extremely discouraging [looking for work]," said Kenny, who holds a marketing degree from Morehouse College. "When I got the break from Wachovia, it was actually a vote of confidence."

Kenny, who has previous experience at large banking institutions, said he hopes to work his way up from bank teller to a regional marketing position with the company.

"We will probably continue to hire on for the next couple of years," Lawrence said. "We have already hired more than 20 tellers and bankers in Henry and Clayton counties, not counting the openings we currently have posted for six new personal bankers."

Loan business has been increasing recently, said Gary Davis, Wachovia's area manager for business banking. Davis' office concentrates on loans and banking services to small businesses with annual revenues of $2 million to $25 million.

"It's actually starting to pick up," said Davis. "We're making all the business loans as we can, prudently and with the extra resources and products brought by Wells Fargo, [and] this will ultimately help create more jobs."

Davis said that, over the last quarter, branches in Henry and Clayton counties have approved eight small-business loans worth a combined $4.5 million.

"The prior three months, we made half the amount we made in the last three months," said Davis, who added that Wells Fargo stands as the nation's largest Small Business Administration lender. "Wells Fargo brings a whole different level of capital resources and products to its business lending. We're definitely open for business and making loans across the Southern Crescent."

"Our outlook on the overall market is good, and part of that is evidenced on the fact that we're hiring more employees in the Clayton and Henry county area," added Lawrence. "At the end of the day, we want to make sure we have the infrastructure or employee base to go out to get local customers."

The new automated teller machines being installed this winter, known as "envelope-free" ATMs, are the latest effort by Wells Fargo to make Wachovia's branches more community friendly, according to Lawrence.

The envelope-free ATMs have a deadline of 8 p.m., for check deposits, for the funds to be available at midnight, he said, meaning deposits can be made after normal business hours. They also accept stacks of up to 50 cash bills of various denominations and stacks of up to 30 checks, providing check images to users.

He said they have already saved an estimated 460 tons of paper, or an estimated 8,331 trees, in Western states where they are already in use.

He said the ATMs display information in six different languages and offer voice instructions in English and Spanish.

"They save our customers time and hassle," Lawrence said. "They don't need to write on an envelope, do any math, or key in a deposit amount. The ATM does all the work."