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U.S. banks are pruning branches

July 5, 2011 at 1:10 PM

WASHINGTON, July 5 (UPI) -- U.S. banks closed about 1 percent of their branch offices from June 2009 to June 2010, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said.

It is the first time in 15 years that banks are shrinking their reach into U.S. communities, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

Simply put, "The industry is overbranched,'' said Bob Meara, a senior financial analyst at Boston research firm Celent.

Like chain stores, "banks are doing triage with their branch networks and closing the least profitable ones," Meara said.

Banks are also finding less traffic in their branch offices, as consumers turn more frequently to the Internet and automated teller machines to accomplish what used to take a visit to the bank.

Since 2005, transactions handled by tellers have fallen by nearly one-third, said Financial Management Solutions Inc., a company that sells software to banks to help them track teller productivity.

While some big banks say they are adding branches, Bank of America, the country's largest bank, said it would close 10 percent of its branches -- 580 of them -- by the end of 2014.

In the past two years, 1,400 branch offices have closed, the Globe said.

And there's another reason branch offices close: The bank goes under. Since January 2009, 340 banks have failed. Some, as they reopen under new management, do some pruning.

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