WEST PALM BEACH – This year, the big summer slashes have been job cuts. Union Planters Corp. has announced it's cutting an unspecified number of jobs and American Express will also be eliminating up to 5,000 jobs this quarter. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is projecting that job cuts would significantly exceed the 5,000 the company had originally targeted and as of mid-July, 4,000 jobs had already been eliminated. Meanwhile, Citigroup Inc. is still whittling down its corporate and consumer banking division staff with 3,500 jobs cuts scheduled over the next year. Despite the layoffs, or perhaps because of it, the competition has been reinventing itself and how it approaches the consumer. Here's a glimpse at a few of the plans: Washington Mutual Inc., is planning to delve into the subprime mortgage market while other lenders such as Bank of America are letting go. The bank sees the subprime market as a vital part of being in the home loan business and plans to accelerate growth through acquisions. Plans are also underway to add 200 new home loan centers while redesigning its 314 existing offices. No more free weekends for Woodforest Bancshare Inc., a holding company of Woodforest National Bank, employees. The company has recently announced it will begin processing transactions on weekends in addition to the normal Monday through Friday week since it has branches in Wal-Mart stores that are open daily. Woodforest weekend customer-to-customer deposits and online transfers are updated and available immediately. Checks deposited from other banks still have to be processed through the Federal Reserve Bank, which is closed on weekends, but account statements will reflect the deposit and funds will not be available. In addition to groceries, Florida residents can also purchase investment products via kiosks in their neighborhood Winn-Dixie Stores. Amicus Financial, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's online banking unit has started selling four index funds plus a money market fund. The funds are managed by the online investment firm Whatifi Financial Inc. of Boston and are available only to Amicus customers who have signed up through the private-label "Marketplace Bank" service. Analysts say that the partnership is the first to offer investment products through tellerless grocery-store kiosks. Winn-Dixie has 100 supermarkets in Florida. Community banks that offer online banking can now take advantage of an American Bankers Association insurance package. The Internet Banking Protection Package includes an Internet banking liability policy; an enhanced version of the existing financial institutional bond; and optional riders for business interruption, public relations expenses and cyber/network extortion coverage. Bank Rhode Island, Inc. has teamed up with Weston, Massachusetts -based FirstDebit Corporation to offer a prepaid debit card to high school students traveling domestically or abroad. The reloadable card can be used to make purchases, pay for foreign currency and phone home. So far Cambridge, Massachusetts-based EF Tours is the sole distributor of the MasterCard EF Travel Card. Bank of America is going into brand overdrive. With plans to spend $30 million in advertising across the television, Internet and print properties of AOL Time Warner Inc., the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank is determined to change the way consumers view banks. Focused on creating a national bank brand, Bank of America will use the mix of advertising channels to promote its main campaign theme of ingenuity. First Niagara Financial Group Inc., can include a risk-management consulting department in its bag of insurance offerings. Targeting large and midsize commercial banking customers of its three banks: First Niagara Bank, Cortland Savings Bank and Cayuga Bank, the department will offer to analyze past property/casualty losses and forecast future losses while helping to prevent them. The risk-management practice is designed to help cut insurance costs by identifying ways to improve employee safety and reduce the likelihood of damage to property. First Union is offering a free e-mail series that advises women on retirement issues. Delivered in five weekly e-mails, topics range from the basics of a retirement plan, to working with a financial advisor. In a move to build loyalty among its small-business customers, Fifth Third Bancorp has launched a portal that allows commercial customers to conduct a wide range of transactions under a single sign-on. The enhanced business Internet portal allows customers to initiate Automated Clearing House and both incoming and outgoing wire transactions; retrieve same-day images of wholesale lockbox transactions; check balances; review and download investment account information; and gain access to customized online credit card transaction, deposit and charge-back data. Customers choose an employee to be a "super-user" and that person determines whom within the company can access secure data. Marketplace Bank, a Florida subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, has partnered with new elementary charter school Nap Ford Community. As one of the first elementary schools with a specialized focus on finance, children not only learn how to save money and budget but also how to calculate interest and taxes. The bank plans to set up savings accounts for all Nap Ford students and student visits to branches a few times a year. In addition, managers who helped develop the curriculum will also be part-time instructors and plans are underway to hold financial education classes at night for parents. The school, which opens this month in Orlando, currently teaches kindergarten, first and second grade. [email protected]

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