Monday, September 30, 2013

Report: N.C. loses largest percentage of bank branches

North Carolina has lost the largest percentage of bank branches of any state in the past year, a new report shows.

SNL Financial's findings show the state has had a net decrease of 85 branches, or 3.12 percent.

The report comes on the heels of a separate study by SNL that found that Charlotte-based Bank of America has sold more branches than any U.S. bank in 2013.

North Carolina had 19 branch openings from July 1, 2012, to this past June 30. But 104 branches closed in the state during the period.

Nationwide, banks are closing branches and opening smaller ones as more customers migrate to online and mobile banking. With less traffic to teller lines, banks are also cutting back on the number of tellers with which they staff branches. Cutting branches results in cost-savings for banks at a time when they are grappling with new, expensive regulations. Bank executives often refer to the trimming of branches as "right-sizing" or "optimizing" their branch networks.

The SNL report quotes Greg Jacobi, an executive for Connecticut-based Webster Financial Corp., who said his bank is going to get millions of dollars in operational efficiency from closing about 30 branches in the next three to five years.

Harry Davis, economist for the Raleigh-based N.C. Bankers Association, a trade group, told the Observer this summer that North Carolina could stand to lose branches. With 2,725 branches last year, North Carolina had more than 40 states, according to the SNL report.

“There is too much brick and mortar in banking in North Carolina and nationwide,” Davis said at the time. “We have entirely too many banks and too many bank offices.”