First Midwest becomes latest bank to pare back its branch network

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First Midwest Bancorp in Chicago plans to permanently close 15% of its branches.

The $21 billion-asset company said in a press release Thursday that it will shutter 17 branches and divert more resources to digital channels as its customers manage more of their banking business online — a trend hastened by the coronavirus pandemic.

First Midwest said it would close the branches early next year.

“Our clients are increasingly favoring a more digital banking experience, which has been amplified and accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mark Sander, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in a release.

Banks closed 1,275 branches over the 12-month period that ended on Sept. 30, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The closures spanned banks large and small — and all geographies — with the pace quickening in 2020.

There were 85,108 active U.S. branches on Sept. 30, according to S&P Global.

After the closings First Midwest will have 105 branches across the Chicago area. The company said nearly all of the branches are near another First Midwest branch — and roughly half have been closed over the past six months because of the pandemic.

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