The current low interest rate environment is affecting banks’ profit margins. Less profit, coupled with a decrease in customer visits to branch offices, are contributing to bank’s decisions to reduce staff and close branches. Bank of America has been the most aggressive in closing branches. Last year it closed 256 branches and only opened 12. Bank of America could potentially downsize its branch network by 10 percent, but there is no immediate plan to do so.While reducing branch offices is in the works for some overly saturated banks, others are opening more branches. These banks are emerging where they are not yet an established presence. Chase, for example, while closing 77 branches, opened 166 branches last year, 66 of them in California.
Community banks have been encouraged by the recovering economy and the shift in strategy of big banks.In a message to its customers, Oritani Bank’s President, Kevin J. Lynch, wrote,“While many of the big banks are eliminating services, closing branches and raising fees, Oritani has remained steady with low fees and highly competitive loan and deposit rates.”
Oritani Bank, with a branch located at 560 Cedar Lane in Teaneck, opened three branches in the past year. They have also hired new staff members and upgraded their computer system to better meet customer needs.
In its desire to put customer service first, Cross River Bank, headquartered at 885 Teaneck Road in Teaneck, increased its workforce by nearly 60 percent this past year. The single branch bank prides itself on “outstanding service, product variety, and personalized…banking.”
Analysts say we will never have a branch-free banking industry; there will always be a choice between big banks, with large networks of branch offices and ATM Machines, or customer oriented community banks.In the township of Teaneck, 10 branches of community and big banks still remain.
By Paula Cohen