Record online numbers for Web site on tax day

Filed under: Banking & Finance |

Taxpayers used the Internal Revenue Service Web site at record levels on April 17 – and during the days leading up to it.

During the week prior to the income tax filing deadline, there were 3,385,936 visits to IRS.gov. That number trumps last year’s 3,337,300.

And on April 17, IRS.gov set a Web traffic record with 3,237 hits per second at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Last year’s April 15 record was 2,638 hits per second.

The IRS Web site is one of the most heavily used sites on the Internet during the tax filing season, according to the IRS.

IRS officials point to Web site upgrades that make e-filing easier as the reason for the increased traffic.

Officials also said the Web site continues to log record numbers as taxpayers track their refunds.

Vectra Bank 1Q earnings

Vectra Bank Colorado’s parent company, Zions Bancorporation, is reporting first-quarter net income of $137.6 million, or $1.28 per diluted share.

Net income and earnings per diluted share increased 24.9 percent and 6.7 percent compared to the $110.2 million, or $1.20 per diluted share reported for the first quarter of 2005.

The return on average common equity was 12.92 percent in the first quarter of 2006 compared to 15.83 percent for the same period in 2005.

Results of operations for the first quarter of 2006 include Amegy Corp., which Zions acquired at the end of 2005.

The first quarter of 2006 includes after-tax merger related expenses of $3.6 million, or 3 cents per diluted share, related to the Amegy acquisition and related systems conversion efforts.

UMB makes stock changes

Kansas City-based UMB Financial Corp. shareholders have approved an amendment to the company’s Articles of Incorporation that will increase the bank’s authorized shares of common stock.

Under the authorization, the bank’s shares of common stock can increase from 33 million shares to 80 million shares.

The UMB board of directors also declared a two-for-one stock split of UMB common stock in order to broaden the distribution of the stock among investors and to create a wider market for the stock.

Dividends of 13 cents will be paid on shares purchased before the split.

The Board of Directors also authorized the repurchase of up to 2 million shares of the company’s common stock during the next 12 months.

Storms dampen bottom line

Thanks to last year’s hurricane season, the nation’s property and casualty insurers suffered a $4.2 billion underwriting loss.

That’s according to Weiss Ratings, an independent ratings firm for mutual funds, stocks and financial services companies.

The loss report comes after record underwriting profits in 2004.

Insurers reporting the largest year-over-year underwriting losses were State Farm, Allstate, National Indemnity, Continental Casualty Co. and Employers Reinsurance Corp. The blow of the losses was softened somewhat by rising interest rates and solid performance in the equity market, which helped insurers gain a reported 17.2 percent increase in investment income, from $42.4 billion in 2004 to $49.7 billion in 2005, according to Weiss.

Capital gains jumped 31.6 percent to $11.7 billion, compared to the $8.9 billion reported a year ago. However, despite the hurricane losses, insurers earned $46.7 billion in 2005 and managed a 13 percent profit increase, although the growth was less than the industry reported in 2004 when net income surged 28 percent to $41.3 billion.

Insurers reporting the largest increases in earnings were Columbia Ins. Co., Continental Casualty, Ohio Casualty, State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance, and Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Weiss Ratings Vice President Melissa Gannon said property and casualty insurers transferred much of their risk to re-insurers who now bear the burden of the insured losses.

Gannon said that because of predictions for an intense hurricane season this year, primary insurers and re-insurers face an uphill battle to improve underwriting performance, which could leave many consumers in high-risk areas with little relief from rising premiums.

Wells Fargo acquisition

Wells Fargo & Co. officials announced this week that have reached a definitive agreement to acquire LaSalle Bank’s employee benefit trust business.

The acquisition is expected to include about 350 employee benefit plans with $12.4 billion in assets.

Wells Fargo Bank’s Institutional Trust Services will provide core custodial services to these clients, as well as investment management solutions and online services via the company’s Commercial Electronic Office business portal. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of next month. LaSalle Bank Corp. has a presence in 23 states.

Big thanks at U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank management took the week of April 24 to say thank you to employees for the work they do.

All 2,430 banking offices in 24 states participated in Branch Employee Appreciation Week. Lobbies were decorated with banners and balloons.

In addition to saying thanks to employees, regional and district managers will honor each branch’s annual top performers.

Rob Larimer covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.