U.S. Bank opens branch in renovated Coffman Union

Opening represents significant challenge to TCF’s on-campus dominance

by Dan Haugen

With balloons, door-prizes and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, U.S. Bank celebrated the grand opening of its Coffman Union branch Tuesday.

Branch Manager Eric Rediske said opening day business was brisk, with three new accounts and several more inquiries by early afternoon. Bank managers say they are hopeful the branch can attract several thousand student, faculty and alumni accounts by the end of the year.

Competition for students’ banking accounts will intensify in the coming year, banking officials say, as U.S. Bank establishes a greater campus presence with its new location and TCF Bank’s U Card contract with the University comes up for renewal.

Exact terms of the five-year lease were undisclosed, but its value to U.S. Bank was estimated at $903,000 in an April 2002 Board of Regents report.

The University chose U.S. Bank’s proposal over offers from TCF and Wells Fargo. Lori Will, an assistant director with the Twin Cities Student Unions, said a number of factors were considered in choosing U.S. Bank, including proposed hours, banking fees and services.

“We were looking for a bank that would best meet the needs of students,” she said.

The full-service, 750-square-foot branch is slightly larger than U.S. Bank’s grocery store branches. It features an ATM and space for three tellers.

“This is one of the things that our customers have been asking us for: to be on campuses, on corporate sites, in grocery stores,” said Kurt Treu, regional manager for U.S. Bank in the Twin Cities. “To be right there in the Coffman Union, by the major bookstore on campus, was something we couldn’t pass up.”

The opening of U.S. Bank’s Coffman Union branch represents a significant inroad in terms of campus presence, a field TCF has dominated since its sponsorship of the U Card began in 1995.

As part of the agreement with TCF, the University has referred several thousand students to the bank. TCF currently holds 34,000 active U Card bank accounts.

Treu said U.S. Bank doesn’t know how many University student accounts it maintains, but that not having the U Card contract is a handicap when it comes to winning over students.

“Has it been a barrier? Absolutely. Is it an insurmountable barrier? Absolutely not,” Treu said.

TCF’s U Card contract expires Dec. 31, and U.S. Bank officials said their bank will be making a bid to take over TCF’s sponsorship.

TCF has renewed the U Card contract since 1995 and will try “aggressively” again this year, said TCF spokesman Jason Korstange.

“We really enjoy the relationship. It’s been a great advantage (in attracting student accounts),” he said. “The playing field has changed a little bit though. There just seems to be more interest from other banks in the U Card. We hope the University takes into account how well we’ve done.”

U Card Office Director Shirley Everson said the University will consider a variety of factors in making its decision, from financial benefit to the University to the number and types of banking services offered to students.

The University sent requests for proposals to financial institutions in December, Everson said. Those proposals are due Feb. 18, after which staff will sit down and grade every proposal based on the selected criteria.

After the U Card office makes a decision, the Board of Regents will make the final approval, most likely by its June meeting.

Maintaining student accounts is important, banking officials said, because of students’ potential to be long-term customers.

“Students are good customers, and that relationship we’re going to start will be with us, hopefully, for a very long time,” Treu said.

“We feel we’re doing a good job of retaining them after they leave the University,” Korstange said. “They don’t stay students forever. We’d like them to not only be customers at the University, but after the University.”

Prior to Coffman’s renovation, its only financial tenant was the University Credit Union, which permanently moved to the Gateway alumni center when Coffman closed in 1999.

Dan Haugen welcomes comments at [email protected]