Big banks push for California customers

July 6, 2010 at 5:47 PM

LOS ANGELES, July 6 (UPI) -- Some of the country's biggest banks say they are looking to expand in California, land of 37 million customers, sunshine -- and high unemployment.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., which purchased Washington Mutual, said it is planning to add hundreds of new branches to the 700 locations it already has in the state, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

U.S. Bancorp, buyer of Downey Savings, Pomona First Federal Bank and California National Bank, has expanded its presence in California to 660 branches since the financial meltdown opened opportunities to do so.

Although its headquarters is in New York, Citibank is also expanding in California, the newspaper said.

The biggest in the state, Wells Fargo & Co., with $1.1 trillion in assets, and Bank of America, with $1.7 trillion, are not taking the assault lying down.

"I'd like to see it become one in every two households over the next five years," said Lisa Stevens, president of Wells Fargo's retail operations, referring to the current status of the bank, which serves one in every three households currently.

The competition appears to play in customers' favor. California has among the lowest average overdraft fees in the country, some of them less than $20 compared with averages near $25 in other parts of the country, Bankrate.com said.

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