Northwest Savings Bank's plan to shutter its branch in Pleasantville, Pa., has run into stiff opposition from the town's mayor.
The $8.9 billion-asset bank in January announced plans to close 24 branches across its footprint. Northwest cited the same reasons many other banks are closing retail locations nationwide — a reduction in branch traffic as more customers do their banking online.
That doesn't apply in Pleasantville, however, where Northwest Savings is the only bank in town, said Mayor Martha Long. Pleasantville's population of 850 is about 20% senior citizens, she said. Furthermore, about half of Pleasantville's seniors don't have access to the Internet or cannot do their banking online. Long said she doesn't buy Northwest's argument that branch traffic and in-branch transaction volume have declined.
"I can't believe that because many people who have approached me said that they don't do online banking," she said.
Long has collected about 600 signatures on a petition to keep the branch open, and she intends to hand-deliver the petition to Northwest's chairman and chief executive, William Wagner, at the bank's Warren, Pa., headquarters. Long also plans to research whether closing the branch would violate the Community Reinvestment Act.
Some other communities have been successful in at least getting the attention of regulators to reexamine potential branch closures. The $5.2 billion-asset Westamerica Bancorp. ran into opposition last year when it planned to close a branch in Upper Lake, Calif. Community groups persuaded state regulators to take a second look at the proposed closing. But Westamerica was unable to find a buyer for the branch, which would have kept it in business.
Long appears to have a solid argument for why Northwest should keep the branch open.
The bank, a unit of Northwest Bancshares, has said that customers of the Pleasantville branch can switch to its other branch locations in northwest Pennsylvania, such as Titusville, Tionesta or Tidioute. But Long said those branches are too far away; the Titusville branch, the closest, is a for example, is an 11-minute drive.
Many people are attracted to Pleasantville because of its various amenities, including the bank branch, she said.
"People actually move here because we have a post office, a bank, a beauty and barbershop, a restaurant, a pizza shop and borough building," Long said.
Pleasantville is one of Northwest's smallest branches by deposits. It held $15.6 million in deposits as of June 30, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., making it the smallest of Northwest's four branches in Venango County. The branch has been open since 1961; it was acquired by Northwest in 1998.
Northwest plans to help its customers in Pleasantville during the transition. For example, Northwest's regional president for northwest Pennsylvania, Julie Marasco, has responded to about 200 customers who have sent postcards asking that the Pleasantville branch be kept open, said Melanie Clabaugh, a Northwest spokeswoman.
"We're happy to educate customers about a variety of bank services, including the whereabouts of local branches and free ATMs and how to use depository ATMs, debit cards, direct deposit and online and mobile banking," Clabaugh said.