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Talk of the Bay

Customer privacy and bragging rights

By JEFF HARRINGTON, Times Staff Writer
Published January 5, 2004

[Last modified January 4, 2004, 10:08:45]

The two Charlotte, N.C., megabanks that dominate Florida's banking scene just traded bragging rights.

Bank of America, the biggest bank in Florida, is the fifth most-trusted bank in the country, according to a new national poll on how well the country's 25 biggest banks handle customer privacy. It's the largest bank to crack the Top 5 in the second annual customer survey by the Ponemon Institute in Tucson, Ariz.

Wachovia, Florida's second biggest bank, didn't fare as well. After ranking fourth a year ago, it fell out of the Top 5.

The Ponemon Institute, which says it is trying to become "the J.D. Power of customer privacy" doesn't release the order of rankings below the Top 5.

But Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the research group, hinted in an interview that Wachovia hadn't fallen far. "They performed very well," he said. "It's just that the bar seems to have gone up a little bit."

In a mail, phone and Internet survey of 7,000 people, Ponemon asked people to rate each bank they were familiar with on its commitment to protecting the privacy of its customers.

Topping the list for the second straight year is another bank with designs on Florida: Washington Mutual. The bank, which operates home loan centers throughout the bay area, reportedly is eager to open up to 60 retail branches in the region beginning the second quarter of 2004.

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