People have been changing their banking habits for several years.
Many folks today are not driving to a bank branch, parking the car, walking inside and waiting in line for a teller to do their traditional banking. More and more people have their paychecks automatically deposited, pay bills online, check account balances from their phones and use ATMs to do their banking.
Those changes in customer habits mean banks don’t need as many full-service offices. Many banks are closing or consolidating bank branches or opening standalone ATMs.
Come November, Bank of America is closing three of its branches in Macon. It plans to close its offices at 2720 Riverside Drive, 4040 Vineville Ave. and at 3930 Pio Nono Ave. on Nov. 14, said Matthew Daily, senior vice president of corporate communications for the company. Customers who opened their accounts at these branches or who have safety deposit boxes should have been notified by letter, he said.
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Safety deposit customers have until Oct. 13 to remove their personal belongings and close the boxes, according to a letter sent to a customer.
Daily pointed out that Bank of America’s full-service branches, such as the ones at 1250 Gray Hwy. and 3855 Bloomfield Road, will remain open.
“Many of our locations are being configured to offer additional financial services for our customers,” he said. “There will be no impact to client accounts. … We are constantly looking at our … network of branches we have and adapting that network to fit the clients changing needs and their habits. So, our goal is to provide the right network, financial centers, combined with ATMs to do their banking in Macon.”
The bank provides online and mobile banking services and apps “because of the convenience it provides,” he said.
The company has created financial centers at certain locations to provide one-on-one customer services such as opening accounts, discussing retirement plans, getting a car or home loan or establishing business accounts.
Banks nationwide have shuttered more than 10,000 branches — an average of three a day — since the recession, according to The Economist. During the first half of this year, “a net 869 brick-and-mortar entities shut their doors,” it said relying on S&P Global Market Intelligence, a research firm.
SunTrust Bank, which not too long ago closed a branch on Vineville Avenue, is building a standalone ATM further down the street on Forsyth Road in the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.
SunTrust has closed about 170 branches throughout its operation during the past two years, according to the bank’s website.
A spokeswoman for SunTrust said no one was available late this week to provide comment.
Last month, Wells Fargo announced it would be closing 450 branches nationwide, according to The Motley Fool, a financial services company. The bank had the largest branch network in the U.S. at the end of the second quarter with 5,977 locations, the report said. Bank of America had 4,559 branches.
In February, a Bank of America official said the company was testing “completely automated” branches, according to The Charlotte Observer. Those testing offices, which feature automated teller machines and video-conferencing technology for customers to talk to off-site bankers, are located in Denver, Colorado, and Minneapolis.
David Oliver, senior vice president of communications and marketing with the Georgia Bankers Association, said several banking operations locally and nationwide went through a phase prior to the recession of opening multiple branches, and now they have closed or are closing some of those branches.
From 2006 to 2012, everyone was dealing with the recession and failing businesses and failing banks that led to several banks shutting down and being acquired by other banking operations. Sometimes, that created too many branches in an area, so some of those branches later closed.
In 1996, there were 2,053 branches in Georgia, by 2006 that number had grown to 2,741, according to information from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provided by Oliver. By 2012 that number had dropped to 2,651 and in 2016, there were 2,440 branches in the state.
“Then in 2012-2016, that’s where I think you’re seeing the changes in consumer preferences for how they want to do business, and bank delivering on more convenient ways to do day-to-day basic transactions,” Oliver said.
“I think it’s important to point out that there is still the desire for a lot of customers to have those in-person interactions. … So the banks have to balance that and be really strategic about which locations they have open, the staffing for those locations and then consolidate where they are obviously seeing a lack of business and a lack of foot traffic in those locations.”