Advocates have bemoaned the years-long trend of branch closures, with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition saying in a report that "the critical services they provide are essential to the vibrancy of communities." The group said that when branches close it opens to door to, among other things, predatory lenders.
But banking analyst Dick Bove thinks fear of branch extinction is overblown, with the trend likely to abate once the Federal Reserve normalizes interest rate policy and the yield curve—the spread between bonds of various duration—starts to expand.
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"When banks are trying to collect deposits because the yield curve is steep and you're able to make a reasonable return on deposits, you open up branches," the Rafferty Capital Markets vice president of equity research said in an interview. "When you have a flatter yield curve, low interest rates and you don't want to attract deposits, you close branches."
Among institutions, Bank of America has been the most aggressive in closing offices, shutting down 41 in the third quarter alone and 148 over the past year. The bank is the second largest by deposits after JPMorgan and ranked third in branches as of June 30 with 5,099, according to the U.S. Bank Locations site.
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Regionally speaking, the Chicago area has lost the most, with 125 shutting, while Washington, D.C., has been the next hardest hit with 39 closures, according to SNL.
Illinois leads the way among states, only six of which showed net additions over the past 12 months. The biggest gainer was Nebraska, with nine new branches. (Go here for a heat map on branch closings.)