Are banks closing branches or opening them? It depends

Sharon Fisher//May 22, 2018

Are banks closing branches or opening them? It depends

Sharon Fisher//May 22, 2018

The Wells Fargo branch in downtown Boise.

Banks in Idaho and nationally are closing some branches but opening new ones as they adjust to changing consumer preferences.

Nationally, a number of banks, such as KeyBank and Wells Fargo, are closing branches, typically to save money, sometimes after a merger or acquisition. The Wall Street Journal reported more than 1,700 branches shut down between June 2016 and June 2017. At the same time, banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are opening branches, with Chase planning to open 400 and Bank of America planning to open 500.

In Idaho, 77 branches have been closed since 2010, while 31 branches have been opened, according to the Idaho Department of Finance. In some cases, banks have closed branches in some areas and opened them in others.


photo of sonya hawley
Sonya Hawley

KeyBank announced in April that it was going to close 40 branches nationwide, by the end of the year. In Idaho, KeyBank is closing one branch, the Country Club branch in Idaho Falls, effective June 29, said Sonya Hawley, area retail leader. “We’re consolidating that into the Idaho Falls downtown branch, less than 2 ½ miles away,” she said. That branch also offers more services than the branch that is closing, she said, such as a mortgage officer and business expertise. “Satellite branches don’t always have that service,” she said. “Now, clients have a one-stop shop.” All the existing employees are transferring to the downtown branch, she added.

photo of julie fogerson
Julie Fogerson

“We expect to close 300 branches throughout the network, which is an increase from the 250 we announced previously,” said Julie Fogerson, assistant vice president of Idaho regional communications at Wells Fargo in Boise. “Based on our assumptions regarding consumer behavior and technology advances, as well as other factors, we still could see our total branch network decline to approximately 5,000 by the end of 2020.” In Idaho, the bank will be closing its Sun Valley and Capitol branches, each of which have another branch within a mile, she said. Capitol branch customers were notified in April that the branch would be closing in July.

Wells Fargo will also close its Kimberly and Buhl branches on August 15. Fogerson said the nearest Wells Fargo branches for Buhl customers will then be in Perrine or Jerome, both about 15 miles away. The nearest branch for Kimberly customers will be in Twin Falls, about 5 miles away, she said.

photo of paul silva
Paul Silva

“We’re actually just seeing what our customers want,” said Paul Silva, Chase market director of banking, who is responsible for 18 of the 20 branches in Idaho. (The other two, near Coeur d’Alene, are covered by the Spokane market director.) “We have closed a couple of branches, we’ve opened some branches. Right now, we don’t have any anticipated closings, but we continually monitor what’s appropriate.”

Chase’s most recent closing was the East Bench branch inside a Fred Meyer department store, because the bank had two freestanding branches within a mile in each direction, Silva said. At the same time, the bank is looking at several sites in Boise and Meridian, particularly because of the latter’s growth, that it expects to have open by 2021 or 2022, he said. Most likely, it would be a new, standalone building, he said.

Generally, bank officials hesitated to go into a lot of detail about their plans for closing branches, with a number saying only that they are always looking at business options. Bankers mentioned they made decisions based on increased support for digital banking, proximity of neighboring branches,

photo of Becky Sechler Patnoi
Becky Sechler Patnoi

and whether branch space was leased or owned.

photo of jason meyerhoeffer
Jason Meyerhoeffer

“The banking industry is definitely evolving,” said Jason A. Meyerhoeffer, president and CEO of First Federal, in Twin Falls. “The number of branches has declined in recent years and will likely continue to do so.” His bank hasn’t closed any branches and he doesn’t plan to close any, he said.

In particular, some are concerned that banks are closing rural branches and opening urban ones. That could mean that, while the overall number of branches remains the same, rural areas become “bank deserts” where there aren’t any bank services around, other than automated teller machines.

That said, banks said branches still play a role, particularly when customers are looking for guidance rather than simply performing a transaction. “Most of our clients who come in, it’s for advice,” Silva said.

“We want the customer to be able to use the channel they prefer for what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Becky Sechler Patnoi, regional manager for retail for Washington Trust Bank. “Simple transactions may be going a digital route for many people, but not for everyone, and complex transactions are still occurring face to face.”

This story was updated on May 23 to add information about Wells Fargo branch closures in Buhl and Jerome.