When banks merge, closing overlapping branches to reap savings is a no-brainer. But what may appear on paper to be sensible, if not obvious, decisions to shutter branches can be tough to manage, bankers say. When their branch is closed, customers don't always go where the bank expects them to go. Surviving locations must be equipped to handle more consumers and small-business customers. And a host of other issues must be considered, ranging from the presence of competitors nearby to the profitability of the branch to whether a building is owned or leased.

"The physical facility issues are starting to catch up," said P. Sue Perroty, executive vice president of franchise design and delivery management at Philadelphia-based CoreStates Financial Corp., which is in the midst of closing 89 branches following its acquisition of Meridian Bancorp.

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