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ATMS, signs signal switch in industry
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Brett Wertz, Wells Fargo district manager, tests a new ATM at a former Wachovia at Castleberry Crossing. The new machines are part of Wells Fargo’s acquisition of Wachovia. - photo by Jennifer Sami
While some banks in Forsyth County are changing names, others are updating technology.

The rash of bank seizures nationwide has led many financial institutions to take over others that have failed or struggled, including some in Forsyth.

One of the most notable in the county is Wells Fargo Bank’s acquisition of Wachovia.

Within the next 10 to 14 months, the signs at the seven Forsyth locations of Wachovia will change over to Wells Fargo, indicating the final phase of the transition.

But with the switch comes a major upgrade in technology, beginning with new ATMs.

Among other features, the machines allow customers to deposit stacks of cash or checks simultaneously, purchase stamps and make same-day deposits until 8 p.m.

The machines are environmentally friendly, giving customers the option to print receipts and eliminate the need for envelopes.

While the technology exists at other banks, including Bank of America, BB&T and Wells Fargo, it’s new for Wachovia.

“The main point we’d like to make here is we are investing in upgrading,” said Wells Fargo spokesman Jay Lawrence.

Brett Wertz, local district manager, said the ATMs are the “first tangible sign that Wells Fargo has arrived.”

“It’s definitely a much better ATM system than what we had, and I think from what we’ve heard so far from clients and team members, everyone’s been very excited to use it and have adjusted to it very quickly,” he said.

Georgia’s Wachovia branches are the first to get the new ATMs. All seven of Forsyth’s branches are slated to have the new technology by the end of February.

While the technology won’t be upgraded at what was once Colonial Bank at The Avenue Forsyth, the name has changed.

“What happened is Colonial Bank failed and BB&T took over,” said Jonathan Mills, branch manager. “In May, we’re getting converted to BB&T.”

Mills, who was also branch manager under Colonial, will remain at the bank, as will his four-employee staff.

His new company has great benefits, he said, and the change is a good one for employees.

Because the branch is only a couple years old, the technology is still new and doesn’t need to be upgraded.

“Just the signs ... will change and then the systems have to be switched over,” he said. “In May, everything will be completely done.”

Forsyth Community Bank, which was a division of Buckhead Community Bank, has begun fielding phone calls with its new name, State Bank and Trust Co.

The Macon-based company took over all six of the failed Buckhead’s branches, which had $874 million in assets and $838 million in deposits.

About $118 million of First Security National Bank’s assets were also taken over by State Bank and Trust Co., including a Vickery Village location.

Changes are not uncommon in the modern banking industry. And as new banks move in, there is opportunity to improve.

It’s a goal Wertz has as Forsyth’s Wachovia branches join more than 270 others in Georgia as Wells Fargo.

By early 2011, there will be 10,000 Wells Fargo locations nationwide. In the meantime, Wertz said the transition will be slow and cautious.

“We’re being very prudent with our time frame,” he said. “Wachovia has got a great name and we want to do what’s right for the customer and not rush into anything.”