Three US regional banks have confirmed the opening of new branches, critical to business lending and financial access in their local communities.
South Carolina-based Woodforest National Bank is expanding its reach through a new branch in a Walmart in Florence, the bank’s 138th premises.
Meanwhile, in neighboring North Carolina, Bank of Oak Ridge is to build a new branch in High Point. The location will be its fifth in the ‘Triad’, the region covering Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point.
Bank of Oak Ridge CEO and chief financial officer Tom Wayne said: “We are excited to grow our client base and expand our footprint in the area, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to serve this community in a more direct and meaningful way.”
Elsewhere, First Federal Savings and Loan Association also announced it had entered an agreement with Sterling Bancorp to buy its Bellevue, Washington bank office.
Sterling’s chief executive officer Thomas O’Brien said that his bank was unlikely to achieve “appropriate scale” in this location, while First Fed was “ideally suited to provide that platform”.
The expansion of these community banks defies the national trend of bank branch closures across the US. According to National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the number of bank branches in the U.S. declined by 5.1% between 2017 and 2020 to 81,586.
Prior to the pandemic, mobile and internet banking was quickly becoming a preferred method for millions of Americans to complete many financial transactions.
The pandemic exaggerated significant changes in how people approach banking with both consumers and financial institutions forced to adapt to a primarily digital environment to satisfy their banking needs.
Some banks are closing their branches down for banking services or finding ways to repurpose them for other uses.
Community banks have played a vital role in the coronavirus pandemic through their participation in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Their ability to attract small and medium sized businesses – often overlooked by larger financial institutions – has allowed them to grow their presence.