Citigroup to close about 100 branches, cites declining foot traffic

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Add Citigroup to the growing list of banks closing branches as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country and more Americans are advised by government officials to stay home.

By the end of this week, the New York City-based bank will temporarily close up to 15% — or about 100 branches — of its 700-branch network and reduce hours at offices that remain open. Citigroup is the fourth-largest bank in the United States with about $1.5 trillion of assets.

“As our clients and communities increasingly self-isolate, we have noticed shifts in foot traffic and market dynamics — so, to best meet our changing customer needs, we have begun to temporarily close branches where and when it makes sense,” the bank said in a statement to Bloomberg.

The bank did not identify specific locations or say when the closed offices are expected to reopen. Affected branch workers and customers will be redirected to nearby offices that are staying open.

The decision comes less than a week after JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the country, announced plans to close about 1,000 branches in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which killed more than 500 people in the U.S. as of late Monday afternoon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of JPMorgan’s peers — including Truist Financial in Charlotte, N.C., PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh and Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati— have also closed lobbies and are limiting access at some of their branches to the drive-through window only.

Some Citi employees are due to receive a special bonus to help manage the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the bank also announced that U.S. workers with an annual base salary of $60,000 or less will receive $1,000, with the majority of those one-time payments to be made sometime in April.

Workers outside the U.S. will get an award based on local market compensation levels.

Bonus programs will also be extended to certain Wells Fargo employees, Bloomberg said. The San Francisco-based lender will give $600 before taxes to full-time workers earning less than $100,000 a year and $300 to part-time workers, while branch and call center employees will receive an additional $200 per pay period for five periods if they are required to work in the office during the next month.

The decisions by Citi and Wells Fargo are part of a larger effort to help workers — especially those on the front line who continue to work and interact with the public — deal with the pandemic. Some are paying bonuses, some are increasing hourly pay and some are providing additional hours for paid leave.

About 170,000 Wells Fargo employees will receive additional payments. According to Bloomberg, the bank also said it would not make a 2019 profit-sharing contribution to its 401(k) plan, citing last year's financial performance and "the extraordinary environment we are currently living through."

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