Wells Fargo’s Web site certified for use by blind

Filed under: Banking & Finance |

Wells Fargo & Co. is offering online banking services for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Wellsfargo.com is the only financial institution Web site that is certified by the National Federation of the Blind. Other organizations that have been certified include Hewlett-Packard and the U.S. Social Security Administration.

“For organizations to qualify for this certification, the National Federation of the Blind conducts a rigorous task-performance test of the primary functions of the organization’s site using at least two different screen access programs,” said Marc Maurer, president of the organization.

Site enhancements include the ability to use screen readers and screen magnifiers.

Wells Fargo also has 3,300 talking ATMs in 23 states.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind, there were 10 million blind and visually impaired people in the United States in 2001.

Research from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration show that among blind and visually impaired Internet users:

  • 87 percent use e-mail/instant messaging
  • 47 percent play games online
  • 82 percent search for information about products and services
  • 53 percent make online purchases
  • 73 percent look for news, weather or sports information
  • 39 percent search for health information
  • 31 percent search for government information

Wells Fargo also provides raised-line checks, which are larger than standard checks, are yellow to help reduce glare, and have bold raised lines; statements in Braille and large print for checking, savings and market rate accounts; and Braille ATM cards and check cards.

IRS has $2.2B for those who have not filed a 2003 return

Unclaimed refunds totaling about $2.2 billion are awaiting about 1.8 million people who failed to file a federal income tax return for 2003, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

In order to collect the money, a 2003 return must be filed no later than April 17.

The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $611.

“Everybody who needs to should file their tax return. But you simply can’t get the money we owe you unless you file a return,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2003 returns, the window closes next month. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, postmarked and mailed. There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

Key4Women program cited as a best practice

KeyBank’s “Key4Women” initiative has been named one of the Best Practice Programs for women’s business funding in the United States by the Urban Institute.

The “Capital Access for Women — Profile and Analysis of U.S. Best Practice Programs” study cited KeyBank’s lending goal pledge of $1 billion during a three-year period, providing relationship managers for women and supporting women’s organizations to help them obtain the resources they need to grow their businesses.

More than 100 U.S. capital access programs were examined, and only 13 were selected as Best Practice Programs.

Hedge assets rose to $1.89 trillion in 2006

Hedge fund assets rose 24 percent to $1.89 trillion in 2006, driven by allocations and performance gains, according to Institutional Investor News and HedgeFund.net.

Equity-focused hedge fund assets rose 30 percent ($173 billion) in 2006 to $743 billion. Nearly 70 percent of the increase came from new assets.

Assets in fund-of-funds grew 22 percent ($174 billion) to $953 billion. New allocations accounted for $125.7 billion, while performance increased total assets by an additional $48 billion.

Allocations of $22.9 billion and $18.2 billion were made in 2006 to emerging market-focused and energy sector-focused hedge funds, respectively.

Europe was the fastest growing major investment region for hedge funds in 2006, with total assets in Europe-focused funds rising 46 percent to $276.5 billion.

U.S. Bancorp announces quarterly stock dividends

The board of directors of U.S. Bancorp has declared a quarterly dividend of 40 cents per common share, payable April 16 to stockholders of record as of March 30.

U.S. Bancorp has increased its annual dividend rate during each of the past 35 years and has paid a dividend for 144 consecutive years.

The board of directors has also declared a regular quarterly dividend of $372.50 per share (equivalent to 37.25 cents per depository share) for U.S. Bancorp’s Series B Non-Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock.

U.S. Bancorp is the parent company of U.S. Bank. With $219 billion in assets, it is the sixth largest commercial bank in the United States.

Lorna Gutierrez covers banking and finance for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.