The national banking industry trend of retail branch closings continues to impact local bank branches.
Citibank closed the doors of its West Main Street branch in December and Capital One has announced the planned closing in April of its Jamesport branch. Suffolk County National Bank, headquartered in Riverhead, closed six branches in late 2013 and early 2014.
Nationally, bank branch numbers fell last year to the lowest point in a decade, according to the Consumer Bankers Association, a retail banking industry trade group.
The banking institutions say they are looking to maximize efficiencies in an increasingly digital environment.
With retail banking “rapidly evolving beyond a purely branch-based model,” Citibank is focusing its “branch footprint” in it major urban markets and expanding its digital channels nationally,” Citibank’s director of public affairs for U.S. consumer and commercial banking Andrew Brent said yesterday.
Citibank, which operated 955 branches in the U.S. at the end of the third quarter last year, “recently determined that a number of branches outside our target footprint would close,” Brent said.
The bank, one of the country’s largest, maintains a network of ATMs at 7-Eleven stores across the twin forks. Its Selden branch is now its easternmost branch out of 22 remaining in Suffolk County, according to the Citibank website.
Capital One, which acquired Mattituck-based North Fork Bank in 2006, notified its Jamesport branch customers of the closing in a Jan. 21 letter. Their accounts will be automatically transferred to its Route 58, Riverhead branch.
“The branch is expected to close April 24,” Capital One corporate spokesperson Julie Rakes said today. Branch employees have been notified that their positions are being eliminated, she said. Capital One plans to close eight other Long Island branches — Amagansett, Bay Shore, East Quogue, Lake Success, Lawrence, Plainview, Stony Brook and Valley Stream — in the same time frame, according to documents filed with federal regulators.
Frank D. Filipo, executive vice president and operating officer of Suffolk Bancorp, said his company’s decision to shutter six branches in the past 12-15 months was “driven by the reality of the changes in the business.”
“Branch floor traffic has been falling for years,” Filipo said, “as more and more clients are using electronic channels, there’s less traffic in the branches.”
Banks across the country are analyzing their needs and optimizing their branch networks, Filipo said.
“In any business you have to be aware of change,” Filipo said. “Change is in the business model.” The challenge is to stay relevant but operate more efficiently. When it announced in November 2013 the planned closing of six branches by the end of the first quarter in 2014, Suffolk Bancorp said it anticipated the move reduce ongoing operating expenses by more than $2.4 million annually.
With more people using direct deposit and conducting transactions electronically, fewer transactions are being done at the branch level, so there are fewer reasons to go into a bank branch, Filipo said.
“People are not coming in to cash their checks any more, or make deposits,” he said. “We find that people do come in for problem-solving and for other services, such as opening new accounts or to talk to someone about mortgages. So branch visits are increasingly sales or service related, not so much about transactions,” Filipo said.
“Transactions are more and more all being done electronically,” Filipo said. And that’s true across all demographics.
“It’s a mistake to assume people with gray hair don’t use electronic services,” he said. “We find adoption of electronic services across the board, in older people too.”
The transformation in banking will continue, the Consumer Bankers Association says. And with it, according to industry analysts, more branch closings.
Since Jan. 1, banks have filed closing notices with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for more than 200 bank branches nationwide. Last year, 1,407 bank branches closed in the United States.
Photo caption: Former site of Citibank’s Riverhead branch at 209 West Main Street. (Photo: Peter Blasl)
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