Friday, November 14, 2014

Report: BofA tops in net branch closures

Bank of America posted the biggest net decline of U.S. branches of any lender during the third quarter, as banks nationwide continue to shed locations, according to a report released Friday.

The Charlotte-based bank posted a net decrease of 41 branches in the quarter, the report by data firm SNL Financial shows. The bank opened one branch in the quarter and closed 42.

To be sure, many of the banks that had large net declines in branches in the quarter are among the biggest lenders in the U.S. 

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. bank by assets, was in second place, with a net decrease of 31 branches (it opened 12). Regional lender SunTrust Banks was in third place, with a net decrease of 22 (it did not open any during the quarter).

Bank of America, like other lenders, has said it does not need as many branches, as more customers use mobile banking and other self-service banking options.

Branches are also expensive for banks to operate at a time when financial institutions nationwide are trying to cut costs. According to SNL, many lenders say branch closures also let them focus on core markets.

Over the past four quarters, Bank of America has posted 148 net branch closures, the report says. So far this year, the bank has completed the sale of 84 branches.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, has just under 5,000 branches now, about 700 fewer than at the end of the third quarter in 2011. The bank had 4,975 branches as of Nov. 5.

Bank of America's chief financial officer told investors last month that even as the bank trims branches, customer satisfaction scores continue to improve.

In the past year or so, Bank of America has also eliminated drive-up teller service at some of its branches across the U.S., including in the Charlotte region. The bank said too few people were using the lanes to justify continuing the service.