Integration isn't just about figuring out who will be CEO and which name will survive.
In retail banking, hand-holding of customers is often a job requirement. Employees of TD Bank recently had to pour on some extra understanding when a computer glitch prevented transactions from registering in customer accounts.
To make matters worse, the customer-service nightmare happened at the bank that touts itself as "America's Most Convenient Bank."
The trouble started when TD essentially flipped a switch to merge two computer systems that didn't talk to each other. The plan was to create one system that would unify its decade-old U.S. branch network with the platform used by the former Commerce Bancorp, a 1,000-branch bank that TD bought last year.
TD ultimately sorted out the problem, which also included interruptions in online banking capabilities, but the damage had already been done. Customer complaints poured in and a couple of enterprising competitors tried to lure TD's unhappy clientele with new promotions. The bank posted an apology on its website, saying that it would keep some branches open longer than usual and had given employees additional discretion in dealing with problems.
Integration issues are old hat in the banking business. Many executives don't take the time or spend the money to do it thoroughly. Some banks that went through big mergers in the 1990s never fully got back in their customers' good graces after their problems. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer James Dimon makes integration a top priority whenever he makes an acquisition, often spending millions of dollars on new equipment and employee training.