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BofA to open automated 'express centers' in lieu of branches

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Bank of America said it will open five "express centers" in Charlotte, N.C., Boston and New York featuring tellers displayed by video screens to help cut costs.

The express centers will be about half the size of the bank's standard branch office, which typically run from 4,100 to 5,900 square feet, The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday.

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The bank is offering a new option for customers and cutting costs at the same time, the newspaper said.

"The branch is an obvious place to look" for cutting costs, said Bob Meara, a senior bank industry analyst at Celent.

The full-sized branch office is more expensive, in part because it has more employees, Meara said.

SNL Financial reported last month Bank of America -- as part of its Project New BAC cost-cutting effort -- has sold 118 branches -- more than any other bank -- in six deals in which it gave up $4.05 billion in deposits.

From a business point of view, scaling down does not have to be considered a loss, said the director of Mercator Advisory Group, Ed O'Brien.

"The banks don't always have to provide a 10,000-square-foot branch, and nor do the customers necessarily want that," he said.

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