Bank Branch Offices Always Being Evaluated

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Only 9% of Americans say a trip to a bank branch is the method they use most to bank, the American Bankers Association reports. With 48% saying they mostly use a mobile app and another 23% doing most of their banking online, it is unsurprising that bank branches are closing.

Between 2017 and 2021, 9% of all branches in the United States closed, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. S&P Global Market Intelligence found that another 3,065 branches closed in 2022, while 1,004 opened.

Locally, some bank branches are slated to close early next year. PNC announced in November it will close its branch at 2 N. Mill St. in New Castle, Pa., on Feb. 16.

Likewise, Huntington Bank reports two of its offices will close – one on South Meridian Road in Youngstown and one on Elm Road in Warren. Dan Griffith, senior vice president and director of wealth strategy at The Huntington Private Bank, says the branches slated to close have several other branches within a 10-minute drive.

“The convenience of still having a local branch nearby is extremely important to us,” Griffith says.

Gary Small, president and CEO at Premier Financial Corp., says his bank opened one branch in 2023 and will open another in 2024, even while bank officers look at possible consolidations. The ongoing evaluation process led to the closing of four branches in the past three years by merging them with other branches.

Still, Small does not see Premier leaving any markets in 2024.

“I’m still going to branches when I need to have a conversation or I want to get informed,”  Small says, adding most banking he needs to do can be done on his phone or online. “We see the activity at the branches reflecting that. They show up when there’s a life event, when it’s time to borrow or make an investment decision and that’s when we add value the most. Otherwise, we’re adding a lot of ways to just do what you do without getting off your couch.”

Ted Schmidt, regional president at Youngstown PNC, agrees technology will continue to change the bank model, including the training that staff will receive as it transitions from providing fewer transactional services and more advisory services.

“We’re training our employees to be that true banker who can help with the things that impact somebody’s life, whether it’s buying that new car, getting a mortgage, or refinancing that mortgage, and decreasing the transactional stuff, just because people are not utilizing cash as much,” Schmidt says.

First National Bank’s chief consumer banking officer, Barry Robinson, says the economy has not forced FNB to close any branches. He notes, however, his bank continues to evaluate its network and look for opportunities to better serve customers.

Consumers National Bank is expanding its territory, according to Ralph Lober, president and CEO. After opening a loan production office in Boardman in January, the bank announced plans for a new full-service branch in Massillon to open in 2024. It will be Consumers’ ninth branch in Stark County, where 45% of its deposits originate.

Lober believes the larger banks have a different model than a community bank like Consumers.

“They are coming down to how we operate,” Lober says, adding Consumers is already spread out. “We’re going into brand-new markets. They may have two or three branches within their relative markets and they’re reducing down to a more manageable size.”