M&T Bank is combining its IT systems with People’s United effective today. Here’s what you need to know. – Hartford Courant

A flurry of M&T Bank mail has arrived at the homes and businesses of former People’s United Bank customers over the past month, correspondence best not tossed in a pile and then forgotten.

The letters contain new ATM and debit cards and instructions on how to prepare for the massive combination of the two banks’ IT and processing systems, which begins Friday and extends through the three days off the holiday work.

The integration will affect everything from ATMs and debit card transactions to online and mobile banking, affecting hundreds of thousands of People’s United customers in Connecticut.

“The details of this are very compelling,” said Mike Keegan, executive vice president and head of community markets at Buffalo-based M&T on Tuesday. “What I would say is that we’ve spent thousands of hours and thousands of employee hours making sure we’re simulating conversions and testing.”

Keegan said the months of preparation for the conversion allowed the bank to understand what trouble spots might emerge and allowed M&T to take steps to minimize their number.

“If this all works out, which we anticipate, people won’t see what’s going on behind the scenes,” Keegan said. “We are very committed to preserving the customer experience and making sure it works for them.”

Much will depend on a smooth transition for M&T. Except for a handful of branches in Fairfield County previously, M&T is a new name for most of Connecticut, and M&T has acquired one of Connecticut’s largest banks.

M&T’s $8.3 billion acquisition of Bridgeport-based People’s United was completed in April. Typically, in bank mergers, systems integration takes place a few months after the mergers are complete.

A big attraction for the acquiring bank in mergers is to pick up huge pools of existing customers. But the challenge is to retain them and making a favorable first impression by combining the systems is seen as crucial.

A difficult transition can be costly for the acquiring bank’s customers and create opportunities for competitors seeking to win over these dissatisfied customers.

Keegan said M&T drew on four decades of experience acquiring and integrating 24 banks.

Here are nine things to help you navigate the “conversion weekend” as M&T completes the final stages of its People’s United takeover:

On Friday morning, People’s United ATMs will be closed for the combination with M&T. However, People’s United branches will be open to access accounts and withdraw cash. When People’s United branches close early Friday afternoon, former People’s United ATMs will be operational to allow cash withdrawals using People’s United ATM and debit cards.

Debit and ATM cards can also be used at other banks, but fees may apply.

M&T advises customers to plan ahead for their cash needs, perhaps stopping at an ATM earlier in the week.

Closing times will vary by branch, but all will close at 3:00 p.m. Branches will remain closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Branches will reopen at their usual time on Tuesday.

People’s United online and mobile banking will no longer be available until Tuesday morning, so M&T advises planning ahead for those accounts. Instructions will be emailed on how to log in to M&T mobile and online banking for the first time. People’s United customers should know their current username and password and confirm that their contact information is up to date. A note: M&T uses the term “access code”, but it means the same thing as “password”.

M&T ATM and debit cards can be used from Saturday to make withdrawals and deposits at ATMs. The new debit cards can also be used to make purchases. Customers are told in advance which personal identification numbers, or PINs, should be used with the new ATM and debit cards. A note: People’s United ATM debit cards can be used until September 20th.

M&T indicates that the deadline will be extended as soon as possible. For savings accounts, 18 months of transaction history will be available. M&T also recommends saving or printing People’s United online statements and documents, as they will no longer be accessible after the conversion.

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M&T is advising People’s United customers to log on to online banking on Tuesday to check payments and payees, as well as account balances, settings and transfers. One thing to be aware of: some mortgage payments may need to be rescheduled through M&T.

M&T says checking account numbers will remain the same as they were with People’s United, unless the same account number is already in use. Savings and money market account numbers will change and customers will be notified prior to the systems conversion.

After Friday, former People’s United customers will no longer be able to use text messaging to get account balances or view recent transaction history.

Two special telephone lines have been set up for the conversion weekend. For questions about personal accounts, call 1-800-414-9435. Business banking customers can call 1-866-632-4512.

Customers can also visit M&T’s website at https://www3.mtb.com/peoples

Customers with questions can also visit branches for assistance.

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at [email protected]

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