Magazine article American Banker

B of A Closing 30 Branches, Adding Up to 50 in Supermarkets

Magazine article American Banker

B of A Closing 30 Branches, Adding Up to 50 in Supermarkets

Article excerpt

BankAmerica Corp. intends to close 30 branches in California in the coming months, while opening as many as 50 supermarket branches.

Such a move may sound familiar to its rival across the street, Wells Fargo & Co., which has bet much of its retail future on the same strategy.

BankAmerica's supermarket banking campaign "hasn't had the big public profile that Wells' has had, but they've got one, too," said Raphael Soifer, a banking analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.

The closings, to be completed by March, involve about 2% of BankAmerica's traditional branches in California. Russ Yarrow, a bank spokesman, could not say how much the bank expects to save. Employee layoffs should be "minimal," he said.

The bank expects to have as many as 400 branches in Lucky Stores in the coming months, up from 370 today. In all, the bank, which operates in 11 states, has 750 supermarket branches, about 27% of its distribution network, Mr. Yarrow said.

BankAmerica officials stressed, however, that they're not copying Wells' ambitious strategy of replacing traditional branches with in-store branches in order to save on costs.

"Is there life for the traditional branch? Absolutely," said Mr. Yarrow. "What we want to do is provide a really dynamic platform to give customers the choice to bank how they want, where they want, and when they want."

Added Barbara Desoer, executive vice president in charge of BankAmerica's California retail bank, "In addition to adding more branches in Lucky Stores, we're continuing to enhance our ATM, telephone banking, and on-line PC banking services. …

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