Bank branches disappear as consumers go online

PHOENIX — Consumers' increased willingness to transfer money, make deposits and conduct other business electronically is reducing the number of bank branches nationally.

In Arizona, the state counted 1,248 offices run by 66 banks at midyear, according to a tally by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. That was down from 1,287 branches one year earlier — a decline of about 3%. The Arizona branch count peaked in 2009 at 1,405. Since then, banks have shuttered 157 offices, or about 11% of the total.

That has left some rural areas short on competition. Six Arizona counties have 10 or fewer branches. Graham County has just three branches and Greenlee just two — both operated by National Bank of Arizona. In Maricopa County, the branch count fell to 826 from 845 last year.

Arizona isn't unusual in the branch-shutting trend, as more customers have gravitated toward electronic services. In a survey this year by the American Bankers Association, 55% of respondents said they primarily did their banking through desktop or laptop computers, making it the preferred method by far. Another 18% of consumers favored smartphones and other mobile devices, with branches cited as the top method by just 14%. ATMs (6%), telephones (4%) and mail (3%) rounded out the choices.

"More people are walking around today with their mobile device in hand, and banks have made it easier than ever for them to access their accounts anytime and anywhere," said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president for the association, in a statement.

Nationally, the branch count dropped to 91,861 as of mid-2016 from 93,273 one year earlier and a peak of 99,550 in 2009. The shift has allowed banks to trim real estate and employee costs and invest the savings in their digital services.

Deposits, meanwhile, continue to grow — despite fewer branches and historically low yields on savings accounts. Deposits across the nation rose to $11.3 trillion at midyear from $10.7 trillion one year ago and $7.6 trillion in 2009.

Follow Russ Wiles on Twitter: @asmoneynews


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