The DePaulia has learned Wintrust Financial will be replacing PNC as DePaul University’s official bank, a deal forged side-by-side with Wintrust’s purchase of the naming rights for DePaul’s new basketball stadium.
DePaul Executive Vice President Jeff Bethke confirmed the deal Friday, setting the stage for a new, increased presence for the Rosemont-based company, Chicago’s second largest local bank.
“Students are free to keep their PNC banking relationships,” Bethke said in an email. “However, ATM and on-campus branch locations will be transitioned to Wintrust, likely after the spring quarter, but the precise timing isn’t set yet.”
PNC now has three automated teller machines or ATM’s at the Lincoln Park campus and two on the Loop campus with teller window offices on both campuses.
“We will be sure to communicate steps to ensure a smooth transition for our students,” Bethke said.
The partners have yet to release the contract that reveals the full extent of Wintrust’s new relationship with DePaul. In April 2015, Legends Marketing estimated naming rights for the new basketball arena could be worth $24 million. Officials from Wintrust and DePaul would not comment on the actual amount the bank has agreed to pay the university.
“The nature of that agreement is confidential and we are not discussing the terms of the sponsorship arrangement,” Bethke said.
The agreement over the naming rights will last 15 years, according to a 2016 DePaul press release.
Questions how Wintrust’s banking will differ from PNC’s still remain, however.
Last fall, in announcing the arena naming rights deal, Wintrust CEO Ed Wehmer hinted at a deeper relationship to come with DePaul.
“This is a partnership (that) literally goes both ways,” Wehmer said. “We look forward to working with DePaul on their banking needs.”
DePaul’s transition to Wintrust appears to end a seven-year formal relationship with PNC. The Pittsburgh-based banking company became DePaul’s “preferred banking partner” in early 2010, according to the initial contract. DePaul’s current contract with PNC is set to expire in June.
A PNC spokesperson told The DePaulia that it would not comment on its contract with DePaul.
Wintrust’s expanded new presence at DePaul is a direct result of its bid for naming rights of the basketball arena, according to those familiar with the process.
“The ironic part about it is PNC’s contract with DePaul was expiring and that’s how the opportunity really arose,” Jean Lenti Ponsetto, DePaul’s athletic director said. “PNC had that same option.”
According to the contract, DePaul’s athletics program had a number of PNC elements for its sporting events. PNC was classified as “DePaul University’s preferred banking partner” while also having two public announcements during the men’s and women’s basketball home games.
PNC offers DePaul student a special banking program. Students who created an account with the bank had free checking accounts with no minimum balances and no monthly service charge. PNC also offered students a version of Virtual Wallet with the ability for parents to check student’s spending, transfer money and set up account alerts.
DePaul’s faculty, staff and administrators have the opportunity to create an account with PNC to provide services that include discounted interest rates on PNC loans and lines of credit. PNC also offers DePaul faculty, staff and administrators free consultations for retirement planning, education planning and special product offers and promotions.
“DePaul will benefit from that windfall of money. At the same time, Wintrust will benefit from the exposure received” DePaul law professor and attorney Philip Meyers said.
“From the general knowledge of that situation, DePaul seemingly has the right to negotiate prospective deals that they are not in as long as PNC is not in a covenant with DePaul that says DePaul may not discuss a new deal with anybody” he said.
“Anytime Wintrust’s name gets into the public realm, it adds exposure. So it’s a walking commercial for that company, so it relates to a relationship where both parties are to benefit, ideally,” Meyers said.
DePaul students seemed to find PNC’ services acceptable, though if the bank left, some said they would switch over to whatever new bank had a relationship with the university, including ATM’s on campus.
Ariana Kraft, a sophomore journalism major at DePaul, said she got a PNC account during her freshman year and has used it frequently since then. Fees for using an ATM not owned by PNC would be a problem.
“The fees would definitely have the most effect on changing to Wintrust,” Kraft said.
Brittany Reitor, a sophomore business major, said if PNC is not DePaul’s bank, she would likely switch to Wintrust.
“It is so easy to take out money and meet with someone about my bank already,” she said. “So if they switched I would probably just switch.”
Lilly Shapiro, a freshman, signed up with PNC during freshman orientation and would switch as well.
“If PNC wasn’t on campus I would just get another option that is nearby,” she said.
Eric Wheeler, a sophomore business major, said he would also make the switch, though the service so far has been helpful.
“If PNC isn’t on campus, I won’t continue to have an account with them because it won’t be as convenient,” he said.