23 December 2005
Metris Companies, a major credit-card issuer catering to the less-than-bucks-up market I have one of their titanium cards sitting in a drawer somewhere has been acquired by HSBC, which is a Pacific Rim operation (Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corp.) which also owns, among other things, the old Household Finance Company, its one-time rival Beneficial, and what used to be called Marine Midland Bank up in Buffalo.
Metris has a customer-service center in Tulsa, one reason I kept this account open; I expect that office to be closed shortly.
Posted at 7:00 AM to Common Cents
Banking is like musical chairs. Whoever is not squealing in pain after each economic downturn gobbles up all the others. Kind of a tribute to Citibank, I think, that they never got bought up like Manufacturers' Hangover and other NYC-centric banks.
Which leaves whom, exactly? Citi has absorbed a few along the way, and the very name "JPMorgan Chase" implies a merger.
Perhaps oddly, down here on the prairie, while big banks have moved in, little ones continue to be built or maybe they're just hoping to be acquired at some point.
Citibank and Bank of America, with Washington Mutual and a couple others making runs at the top.
In smaller markets, new players come up. (Forget trying to build a name in, say, New York City.) They grow, they often get bought up.
The savings and loans tend to be a different animal, built from the ground up so that Joe Average with decent credit can own a home. There's one in Hoboken that's been here forever. Of course, even they can be led astray - there was that S&L scandal back in the 80's (I think it was) where they (mostly) all got a bailout or a buyout. The ones that survived, though, are the real deal. They're the first place to look for a home loan.
(I used to do direct mail for bank credit cards. Hence I absorbed a bit of their culture.)
I've had plastic accounts purchased by B of A, Washington Mutual and Chase; apparently Citi services some store cards I have (Sears, Shell). The Big Boys can be avoided, but probably not forever.
Citi, however, is the only issuer ever to send me a "pre-approved" application and then turn it down, so I am averse to using any Citi-provided services. (Call it a grudge.)