NEW YORK (
is the last of the Big Four U.S. banks to
provide color on its branch strategy, with each taking a slightly different tack.
Citi has a smaller network than
Bank of America
, but reportedly plans to scale back even further, honing in on six major metropolitan areas.
The strategy makes sense for Citi. The firm has a reputation for being the most troubled of the banking titans because of bad bets on the subprime housing market. But it is also something of a cosmopolitan brand, with a strong presence in major cities around the globe.
Citi executives believe the bank ought to focus on New York, Washington, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, while potentially selling branches in cities like Boston and Philadelphia and states like Texas, where it holds less sway.
Bank of America also
plans to trim brick-and-mortar locales, but with a twist. The banking behemoth, which is the largest in terms of assets, plans to expand its technological presence instead. BofA says it's not closing its doors on customers, but adding ATMs and pushing the online banking experience that they are gravitating toward on their own.
While those two are scaling back on the brick and mortar, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan are taking advantage of natural expansions they were blessed with last year.
Wells Fargo is smallest of the Big Four in asset size, but
inherited the largest branch network from last year's
deal. Wachovia had a strong retail presence on the East, so few of its locations are in direct competition against Wells Fargo's West Coast legacy branches. The San Francisco-based bank is taking its time with the integration, officially beginning the Wachovia conversion in just one state later this year.
JPMorgan also gained a major branch bonus from its
acquisition last year. The bank will close branches that overlap, but ultimately
plans to add over 100 locations annually in key markets.
Given the bank-branch saturation that occurred in the boom times, it makes sense for some to scale back. Ultimately, power is being concentrated into a few key names that will compete for dominance in the most lucrative cities -- whether the wealthy metropolises that Citi is focusing on, or others whose population growth provides opportunities for new customers.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York