Bank notes: Readers are buzzing about staff reductions and pension changes at Moody National Bank.
Vic Pierson, president of island-based Moody National, confirmed that 14 people were let go last week at the bank’s corporate offices in the island’s downtown. The staff reduction came after the bank made a strategic decision to significantly reduce the number of accounts it handles for money-services businesses and other high-risk deposits.
Examples of money-services businesses include check cashers; sellers and redeemers of money orders; and dealers of foreign exchange.
Banks must closely monitor such accounts as part of the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires U.S. financial institutions to assist U.S. government agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, file reports of cash transactions exceeding $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion or other criminal activities, including funding terrorist activities.
“The laws and regulations were too burdensome,” Pierson said. “The risk was too high if you don’t do it correctly.” The return wasn’t enough to justify continuing handling such accounts, he said.
Regulators are ratcheting up enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act, Pierson said.
One of the more high profile cases involves JP Morgan Chase. Aside from mortgage issues and a trading scandal, JP Morgan Chase is under scrutiny for issues involving failure to comply with regulations. It has hired 4,000 people and spent $1 billion to beef up its governance operations after federal regulators directed it to improve its risk-control systems and step up its anti-money laundering safeguards, according to reports.
A large staff and immense resources are necessary to monitor money-services businesses, Pierson said.
Some rumors characterized the staff reduction at Moody National Bank as “layoffs.” But layoffs imply those jobs would return in a foreseeable future when conditions change. Pierson doesn’t foresee a change in strategy, he said.
Moody National Bank, which has 20 banking centers, is leveraging resources in other areas of business. On Monday, the bank created a retail sales manager position. Earlier this year, it created and filled four positions for retail lending. The bank also created a wealth management position and three small business lending positions, which it hopes to fill by the year’s end.
Meanwhile, the bank has changed its employee retirement plans. Until now, the bank has had a traditional pension plan for employees hired before 2007 and a 401k for those hired after. Traditional defined pension plans have become too expensive and employees, particularly younger ones, prefer the mobility of 401ks, Pierson said. All Moody National employees will be on the 401k plan, Pierson said.
Western union: Tip your hat in a final farewell to western wear retailer Baskins, 3445 Interstate 45 in Dickinson. The store will still be around, but under a new name and new owners. Next month, Baskins will become a Boot Barn. In May, Irvine, Calif.-based Boot Barn reached an agreement to acquire all 30 stores and an online site operated by Houston-based Baskins. The acquisition gives Boot Barn a Texas and Louisiana presence. Altogether, Boot Barn will operate 147 locations in 23 states.
“Over the recent years, we have transformed Baskins from a general merchandise store to a leading specialty retailer focused on the western consumer,” Jack Gunion, CEO of Baskins, said in a prepared statement. “Successfully completing that transition positioned us well to be competitive in the important Texas market. By joining the Boot Barn family, we will now be able to offer our guests an even broader product offering the same values they have come to expect.”
Grapevine: It looks like a toast is in order for Haak Vineyards & Winery in Santa Fe.
While Haak, 6310 Ave. T, is popular for the wine it produces, it’s now stepping up its culinary offerings in a big way, hiring Chef Mary Bass. Bass, a culinary art instructor at Alvin Community College and owner of the successful pastry company Viva La Cake Balls, will prepare farm-to-table meals using produce and foods from Santa Fe vendors. Bass will prepare the meals for visitors at the winery’s events.
Area consumers have an appetite for the farm-to-table movement, which promotes locally sourced foods and sustainable farming. Bass has recruited former student and sous chef Tyler Henderson to the Haak culinary team.
“Chef Mary Bass brings a new and fresh perspective to our winery,” owner and winemaker Raymond Haak said. “Offering visitors great meals makes their time at the winery a well-rounded one.
“Chef Bass’s ability to pair wine with food is really going to bring revived life to our kitchen, and we’re thrilled about everything she has in store.”
For information, call the winery at 409-925-1401. Want to talk about it? Visit Buzz Blog, galvnews.com.