Bank branches have gotten a bad name over the past few years, as the growth of online and mobile banking apps have made it possible for consumers to deposit checks, transfer money, and check their account balances from the comfort of their homes. Yet, according to a recent survey, 44% of respondents still identify branches as the most preferred channel for standard banking transactions.
"As with other services in their lives, consumers want financial services on demand and on their terms," write the authors of fiserv's Dec. 2016 study. "Although those terms often mean always-on access through digital channels, the branch remains surprisingly resilient in terms of consumer preference and access."
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This is why a bank's branch network still matters, both for prospective bank customers and for investors who are looking for banks with wide competitive moats.
With this in mind, I dug through recent financial filings from the nation's biggest banks to see which U.S. banks have the most branches. Here are the top five:
These five banks are, not coincidentally, among the nation's biggest commercial banks. JPMorgan Chase is the biggest, followed by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The list then skips over Citigroup, which has fewer domestic branches because of its primary focus on international operations, to U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial, the nation's two largest regional banks.
To be clear, there is a clear trend toward branch consolidation in the industry. Much of this has to do with the fact that fewer people visit bank branches than they used to. But this trend also stems from the fact that it costs a lot less for banks to service customers over digital channels than through in-person visits to a branch.
Bank of America has estimated that it costs one-tenth as much to process a deposit made through its app as it does a teller-assisted deposit. JPMorgan Chase has said that the difference is even starker -- $0.03 per mobile deposit versus $0.65 per branch deposit.
This is why all of these banks are taking a good hard look at their branch networks, trimming them where they can do so without impairing the customer experience.
In the most recent quarter, U.S. Bancorp closed a net three branches, Bank of America's branch count was down by 17, PNC Financial shuttered a net 27 locations, JPMorgan Chase culled a net 29 branches, and Wells Fargo recently said that it would close 450 branches between this year and next.
It will be interesting to watch as these banks continue to shift toward more of a digitally based distribution model. As of now, though, the bank branch remains alive and well.
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