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Bank Branch Closures Slow Despite Coronavirus


Written by Devon Delfino | Published on 10/14/2020

 

Banks have been steadily reducing brick-and-mortar locations over the past several years. And with the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, banks and businesses alike are taking a hit. The question is: What will those ramifications look like as things continue to evolve?

According to the latest research from DepositAccounts, banks have slowed branch closures relative to openings, even though in 2020’s second quarter these financial institutions opened the fewest branches since early 2017. This comes on the heels of a branch-building bonanza at the end of 2019, too. Here’s what else we found.

Key findings

  • Banks closed an estimated 1.8 branches for every one they opened during the second quarter of 2020. This compares to an average closure-to-opening ratio of 2.4 from the second quarter of 2017 through the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Branch openings slipped to 247 in the first quarter of 2020 and 210 in the second quarter, from 427 in the fourth quarter of 2019 — the largest number in the three-plus years we examined.
  • Branch closures dropped to an estimated 376 in the second quarter of 2020, well below the per-quarter average of 631 from the second quarter of 2017 through the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • Despite all the openings, the number of branches continued to decline each quarter. There were 3,889, or 4%, fewer branches in the second quarter of 2020 than the second quarter of 2017.
  • Ten states and the District of Columbia had more bank branches in June 2020 than June 2019. That was only true for one state in June 2019 (relative to June 2018) and two in June 2018 (relative to June 2017). Meanwhile, every state lost bank branches between June 2017 and June 2020.
  • JP Morgan Chase Bank added the most new branches (371) between 2017 and 2020. Bank of America followed with 89, while Woodforest National Bank opened 66.
In this article we will cover:

Branch openings, closures drop in 2020, albeit at lower rate

The first quarter of 2020 saw an uptick in bank branch closures relative to openings, though that was the only time there was an increase in the past four quarters.

In fact, the second half of 2019 saw the lowest rate of bank branch closures per openings in the period we examined, at 1.3 in the third quarter and 1.4 in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter also saw the largest number of openings in the period we studied.

Closure-per-opening rates in the second through fourth quarters of 2017 were much higher than in recent periods, with at least three closures per opening. And looking at the year-over-year figures, the rate in 2020’s second quarter was 33% lower than the rate in 2019’s second quarter.

Although we didn’t have full third quarter data for our study, it’s worth noting that there were 96 branches opened in July 2020,  and another 72 in August.

Gap between closures, openings has narrowed in 2020

The gap between closures and openings barely shrunk when comparing 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019. However, openings had a steep increase at the end of 2019, closing that gap to about a third of what it was from the previous period. But the closing gap likely isn’t a sign of confidence or a larger economic recovery.

“The increase of branch openings in the first half of 2020 is likely due to plans that were made in 2018 and 2019, when the economy was strong and adding branches was seen as an important investment,” said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts.

These states added bank branches in the past year

If you look at the overall figures from 2017 to 2020, all states lost branches. But the number of bank branches rose in 10 states and the District of Columbia from June 2019 to June 2020:

It’s important to note that the data we used showed openings, but it didn’t specify closures. Rather, shuttered branches simply fall off the list, giving us an estimation rather than hard figures.

And while those figures may not show huge shifts, banks can — and do — gain branches through mergers and acquisitions, and vice versa. For example, 630 FDIC-insured banks opened or acquired branches in the first half of 2019, while 240 closed or sold branches.

Massachusetts, while smaller than Texas and with fewer branches, had the largest percentage change between June 2019 and 2020. This was likely aided by JPMorgan Chase’s ambitious expansion into New England, which has gone ahead, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

These banks have added the most branches since July 2016

As noted, JPMorgan Chase has been making moves to increase its physical presence with branches as part of a nationwide expansion plan. This has no doubt helped propel them to the top of this list, by a significant margin:

Bank of America, which opened the second-largest number of branches over the four-year period, also had plans to increase its expansion efforts into new and existing markets. But perhaps the difference has been that this plan also included refurbishing existing financial centers, rather than simply adding them.

Banking amid the coronavirus pandemic

The pandemic’s effects have been far-reaching, impacting almost every aspect of daily life. And although we aren’t necessarily seeing the increase in closures that would be expected from the pandemic, the trend overall has still been toward a decline in branches.

Things are continuing in that downward trajectory in recent months, according to Tumin, with an acceleration in the trend of reducing branch numbers as banks continue to add online and mobile resources for customers. Another side effect of the pandemic has been the temporary closures of bank branches, though those numbers weren’t included in our study.

These shifts can be difficult for consumers to navigate. But as the pandemic continues, it’s even more important to understand the tactics that can best serve you. Here are a few banking tips for consumers navigating the pandemic:

  • Check out online banks: From both a safety and convenience perspective, online banking can be a great option. “In addition to better rates, online banks have fewer and lower fees than brick-and-mortar banks,” Tumin said. “So it can make sense to switch to an online bank even in today’s pandemic world in which interest rates are relatively low at all banks.” Start by opening an online savings account that links to your current checking account. “As you gain confidence with the online savings account, you can then consider adding an online checking account,” he added.
  • Focus on saving money: The economic effects of the pandemic are still an issue that consumers need to think about over the long term — and that means ensuring there’s enough money to weather the financial storms that may ensue. Looking to reduce the costs of banking, including fees, is another approach consumers should take during this time.
  • Double-check safety standards: Although it can now be safer to avoid going to the bank, there may be times when you simply can’t do so. Plus, depending on where you live, there will be different standards for in-person activities. It’s important to check the bank’s website or call ahead to ensure you adhere to your financial institution’s requirements. It’s also an opportunity to make sure those requirements are within your comfort level.

Methodology

Analysts used branch location data (provided annually, and as of Sept. 10, 2020) to calculate the number of domestic offices that were identified as “full-service brick-and-mortar” or “full-service retail” offices (“branches”) as of June 30 on a given year. Analysts calculated the number of these offices that had an establishment date within each quarter and the number of offices in each state as of June 30 in each year.

To estimate the number of quarterly branch closures, we used call reports submitted to the FDIC to calculate the percentage of domestic offices that were branches as of June 30 of each year. Because we were only able to calculate the percentage of domestic offices in the second quarter of a given year, we averaged those percentages and applied them to intervening quarters.

Comments
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #1
With ATMs and now mobile banking for many bank transactions like deposits the need for bank branches has been reduced. In the last 5 years I have been in a bank 1 time because the ATM was broken. I now deposit checks using the Chase mobile app so I don't even need to leave the house. The mobile app only allows deposits up to 25k but you can use the ATMs for any check amount.

The only thing I need for in branch is a signature guarantee which I rarely need.
P_D
  |     |   Comment #2
Some are predicting that the pandemic will make a permanent seismic shift from brick and mortar everything to online everything. In the retail sector, things have been bleak during the pandemic with many bankruptcies and store closings. It's not a surprise since certain places have been subject to mandatory lock-downs. It's pretty hard to run a business with zero revenue. The retailers who fared best were those who invested heavily in the past in their online platform. Those who didn't are teetering on the brink.

I'm not so sure it will be the end of brick and mortar businesses. The pandemic will end, almost certainly within a year and probably in significantly less and people will again want to go out to a place where they can actually see the merchandise before they buy and engage in the social ritual of "shopping." Banking? I'm not so sure. The only time I ever go to a bank now is when I need a signature guarantee or notary. I don't use cash, so I don't even need an ATM. Customers like me would probably be better served if the banks used some kind of third party chain of local notary service that they provide as an inducement for opening an account with them online.
Choice
  |     |   Comment #3
The pandemic was merely the purported rationale to close bank branches and layoff people. Profits increase with lower overhead! Look at any prepaid type of normal expected obligation but not performed. For example, I have requested and received rebates on car ins., Medicare Advantage premiums, auto club premiums, etc. No free ride from me! Windfall profits are not allowed
P_D
  |     |   Comment #4
Some insurance companies automatically issued rebates on car insurance due to the reduced levels of driving during the pandemic.  I use Allstate and they issued rebates 3 months in a row.  I have not heard of private medicare supplemental or advantage premium rebates, but I suppose it seems plausible since a lot of people are not going to doctors for fear of the virus, so insurers are (at least for now) shelling out less.   However, I think they are trying to cover that with these "telehealth" virtual doctor's visits which to my mind are medically useless for patients in most cases but a good way for doctors to continue to earn a living and for insurers to justify their premiums.

I think it's true that the pandemic will serve as a cover for employers to permanently prune the unproductive and marginal employees that they were unable to justify laying off prior to the pandemic.  The good news is that this should improve their efficiency and profits going forward.  Which is another reason why holding some stocks is a good idea to be well positioned for life after pandemic.
Choice
  |     |   Comment #6
Expanding...Advantage programs in this area include dental, eyes, hearing, gyms, etc. those services were not provided for months and they pocketed the dollars! Auto ins was pursued before states “had to motivate “ them. The uneven and unequal and unethical aspects of not returning to all their customers after granting to some should be troubling and thus the reason for my post! I have been made reasonably whole HOW ABOUT YOU CD PERSONS?
milty
  |     |   Comment #28
"I think it's true that the pandemic will serve as a cover for employers to permanently prune the unproductive and marginal employees that they were unable to justify laying off prior to the pandemic." Spoken like management, who almost never get RIF'd. I think most have lost their jobs due to lack of work, not because companies love to keep unproductive and marginal employees on their payrolls. (However, there is a valid argument, I think, to the claim that management uses these recessions to get rid of older, higher paid employees . . . shame on them.)
P_D
  |     |   Comment #5
.. double post removed by poster.
Sorry, something technical went wrong when posting first time.
Buckeyes
  |     |   Comment #7
Personally I have brought money back to my local brick and mortar. This is because I have decided to be a good citizen and not send everything off to a bank like Ally. Instead of Ally paying 2% and the local bank .1%, now Ally pays .6% and my local pays .15%. Much closer. I have to assume not many people are shopping garbage rates online right now as it's a waste of time. Frankly online banking has basically beaten me into submission. I know a couple of people who work there as well and if it helps them stay employed I'll keep some change there until the difference between online and local widens again. I can't pass on a 2 percent difference. I can if its less than half a percent.
deplorable_1
  |     |   Comment #8
They just opened the Bank of America lobby at the branch near me today and I just got my check from Hyperion bank yesterday for closing my CD so good timing. I couldn't deposit through the app due to the dollar limit. I went inside this morning for the first time since this pandemic to find they completely did a covid remodel for "social distancing" as if this nonsense is going to be going on forever. I also found out they are opening back up their drive-through again. All the bank hours have been reduced and they barely have any employees and I couldn't even obtain what the drive-through hours would be. On the plus side checks are now clearing in one day as opposed to the one or two weeks pre-pandemic. everyone there said that this was their first time banking since the pandemic also.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #10
D1 I deposit large checks at the ATM if they exceed the Mobile deposit limit. Chase has a 25k limit on Mobile Bank deposits. I deposited my over 25K check at the ATM that was from Hyperion. You receive the same receipt as the teller would give you plus you can get images of the check(s) deposited at the ATM

Today I went to a Keybank branch to open a checking account so I could get my $400 bonus. I opened the account with $10 and need to make one $500 deposit in 60 days to get the bonus. No direct deposit required. I'll make the deposit tomorrow when the paycheck comes in. I was unable to create an online account at Keybank (They are working on the problem aa they had an old online ID that is causing problems) so I'll have to make another trip to the branch. No ATM card yet .
NYCnative
  |     |   Comment #12
Rickny: I don't see the KeyBank $400 checking acct promo. I only see $200 checking acct promo which expires 10/23/20. Is that a targeted promo?
P_D
  |     |   Comment #15
The $400 promo is by invitation only. Someone else reported that there is also a $500 (or was it $600?) promo. But that one is also by invitation only.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #17
#12 It was invitation only.
NYCnative
  |     |   Comment #13
Rickny: I cannot find the KeyBank $400 checking acct promo. I can only find the $200 checking acct promo (same requirements) which expires 10/23/20. Was the $400 promo targeted?
deplorable_1
  |     |   Comment #18
I was actually going to use the ATM for large deposits but since they opened back up I prefer in person or drive-through. I think there used to be a long hold on checks deposited at the ATM but that was pre-covid.
Nice find on the bonus I'll keep a eye out for that one in the mail.
P_D
  |     |   Comment #20
dp1, I think it unlikely you will receive the KeyBank invite if you have not already, unless there is another round of invitations since that one seems to have been issued a few weeks or a month ago or more. I assume those who received it had KeyBank accounts already, and it may have had a geographical criterion to it as well as they all are apparently located in the same state. Definitely nice promo though, especially if the $500 deposit does not have to be a real DD ACH.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #24
I got the $400 promo. They also printed me a copy of the promo terms with the disclosure papers. Just have to make a $500 deposit in 60 days (I completed). The bank rep said the offers are different and most require direct deposits. She said the no direct deposit offers are rare.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #23
D1 The hold times are the same with ATM deposits at Chase.. All deposits at ATMs are reviewed by the back office too. It's like the mobile banking, once you get use to doing it you are more comfortable doing it.

At Chase the tellers scan your checks and deposit. The process the ATM uses is the same. The ATM will also give you scanned images of the check. The receipt also prints the check hold times.
111
  |     |   Comment #9
I've found that having no-fee accounts with a couple of large banks with local branches helps with signature guarantees (mentioned above), free notary service, and the occasional in-person deposit of cash, which I've never and will never feed into an ATM as a deposit.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #11
111 I Deposited cash for years at the ATM. No problems. But if your not comfortable that's your choice.

One of the Chase banks near me have no tellers and you use ATMs inside the bank for transactions. They do have CSRs to assist you. This is the future of many banks Don't know how they would handle coins
GreenDream
  |     |   Comment #14
While I share 111's distrust of ATMs, I will say in regards to "the future" and handling coins: many banks already have "coin counting" machines that take your coins (which are notorious for undercounting your coins, at least at certain banks). I trust the coin counting machines even less than the ATMs.
P_D
  |     |   Comment #16
Years ago TD Bank used to have coin counting machines in their branches. I had a lot of coins accumulated over the years so I used to dump about $50 worth at a time in them each time I went to the bank. I counted them each time before I went to see how accurate it was. It shorted me a few dollars every time. It never overpaid. I didn't bother demanding a recount (which I think would be impossible anyway), but reported the issue to the teller each time when turning in the receipt at the window to have it credited to my account and emphasized that it seemed to short me every time.

Turned out to be a scandal that eventually hit the news and they removed all of the machines. Don't remember if there was legal class action or not.

I have a couple of local banks for myself and the trusts I manage. I use them almost exclusively for notary and signature guarantees, but yes, on the very rare occasion I am stuck with cash, I would use them to deposit that too.

Recently I have been getting notary through the drive in window at one of the local banks where I have an account. No need to even go inside. I assume they can also do a signature guarantee that way, but have not needed one recently.

I would not use an ATM myself although I am sure the vast majority of transactions go without a hitch. But if you've ever had the misfortune of trying to replace certain checks that have been lost, you probably wouldn't either. So yes, I also use the local banks to deposit checks that are not easy to replace if lost and exceed the remote deposit limit. An alternative is to send them by some kind of secure method to an online bank.  If it's a check that exceeds the limit but is easy to replace, I just send it first class mail.
deplorable_1
  |     |   Comment #19
I remember some friends of mine who were too lazy to count their coins and would use those rip off coinstar machines. The fee used to be 3% but I think it's now 11.9% just for counting your coins. I have always done this manually myself but I like to keep a large bottle full of coins at home just in case I need them. It seems like the "free" coin counters at the banks were charging a fee as well only you just didn't know it.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #22
I read an article that most of the TD Bank coin machines did not count properly. The coinstar machines that take a cut of the funds that you put in were accurate. TD Bank did not maintain the machines properly.
111
  |     |   Comment #21
I don't have a distrust of ATMs in general, or for the most part even of using ATMs to deposit small checks. Where I draw the line is using them for cash deposits. With checks, you can take a quick photo of them with a smartphone or camera, or scan them, before depositing into the ATM. (With checks you write yourself, you have the additional backup of the "duplicate copy" from the checkbook in many cases.) But with cash, I doubt that too many people scan all their greenbacks before depositing them. So in my opinion, the chance of an electronic or mechanical failure of the ATM (although small overall) is a much larger threat to the deposit of cash than with the deposit of a check. With all ATM transactions, I do a quick check of my account online the next time I'm at a secured computer.
P_D
  |     |   Comment #25
I keep copies of all checks I receive. But that doesn't prove that it was deposited.

There is a small, but potentially significant difference between using a teller and an ATM to deposit a check. What happens if you place the check in the ATM and nothing happens. You don't have the check, you don't have any printout showing it was deposited. Chances are they will still be able to retrieve it, but the hassle and stress of potentially having to get a replacement check for some kind of checks in particular is not worth the convenience of the ATM for me.

When you deposit the check with a teller, there is no chance of that happening.

So I agree the possibility of a problem with an ATM is small. But I think it's even smaller with a teller. I do wish I could completely eliminate having local accounts, but in a pinch, they are a necessity.
Rickny
  |     |   Comment #26
And lightning could strike you. Been doing ATM check deposits for years and never had a problem. I have no problem depositing checks via an ATM which saves me time and are available 7x24.. I find no need to make copies of checks. But to each their own.
111
  |     |   Comment #27
I agree with the "to each their own" philosophy. But for checks I receive by mail at home, or even some checks that I write, I'd rather avoid the ATM and scanner-deposit them into one of my accounts (or take a photo in situations where I'm away from my scanner), and thereby be done with it, especially if they are not large checks. In that scenario I don't need to make a copy - the original paper check mailed to me or that I wrote serves as my backup copy, and I keep that for a month or so before shredding. It all depends on each person's everyday lifestyle and practices, I guess.
Buckeyes
  |     |   Comment #29
absolutely completely off topic but my Citi $400 bonus posted today to the checking account! I wasnt expecting it until Christmas. May want to check your balances! Beer money!!!
Buckeyes
  |     |   Comment #30
Im hopeful someone can guide me as to what I can/cant do now with my Citi 15k which had the $400 bonus hit day. The deposit posted June 29, which is about 105 days ago. What do I need to be aware of to avoid losing the bonus?. I'm not finding any fine print but perhaps someone can please reassure me. I'd like to bring it back to my investment account and put all of it to work and not earn .000000001 percent interest. Thank you!
Buckeyes
  |     |   Comment #31
For the CITI bonus that I earned i just wanted to say that the online rep said i can close my account without issue. That I have "earned the bonus". Since the account requires a 10K minimum balance to earn .01 % interest , I'll be doing ACH transfer out of the account today. With the rate and the monthly charge requirements, CITI must be doing business with a lot of folks who don't want to be bothered with moving money around. That ain't this guy.

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