The Future of the Bank Branch: American Banker's Maria Aspan jumpstarted a lively debate when she suggested it was long past time to kill off the bank branch. Aspan applauded PNC Financial's recent decision to dramatically overhaul its branch network and urged other banks to consider similar measures. "The industry is overbranched and unevenly so," she wrote. "Closing branches haphazardly, without a firm and well-researched strategy to make sure banks will not lose customers, is obviously a bad idea. But so is ignoring the irrevocable changes in what most customers expect from their banks." Some readers agreed with Aspan's assessment. "The tide is quickly shifting and branches are heavy anchors for banks that have immense overhead expenses to drag around," one wrote. But others felt the branch still performed an essential function in the banking business model. "Technology banking will never replace good old fashion relationship banking," one commenter wrote. "Local dollars in, local dollars out." Another echoed: "Banking, like other businesses, is all about relationships." And a few readers thought banks would be best served by striking a happy medium. "Killing seems a little severe," one reader commented. "While there is certainly an excessive number of branches, with updating many can continue to serve a useful purpose."
Small Banks' Fate the Debate Continues: Risk consultant J.V. Rizzi weighed in on Matt Yglesias' now infamous blog post on small banks by suggesting community banks could survive and prosper if they adapt. "Adapting goes beyond online or mobile banking," he explained. "It involves embracing a new vision of financial services. It includes increased mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and branch transactions as the size and composition of institutions adjust to new strategies." One reader agreed: "There is great potential for community banking. But, success will not be found by waiting for the old days to return." Meanwhile, American Banker Editor in Chief Neil Weinberg put a new spin on the issue when he suggested the more profound question at hand was whether small banks had an effect on the stability and efficiency of the U.S. financial system. "On that score, the evidence is more mixed," he wrote. "Small banks cannot possibly provide protection from the systemic risks these Goliaths pose, but they do provide shock absorbers."
Our Best to Barb Rehm: Long-time editor Barb Rehm announced she was leaving American Banker this week to join Promontory Financial Group. Rehm closed out her tenure at American Banker with a final column arguing that the war over financial reform needs to end. "Let's dial back the complaints and the accusations and try trusting each other again," she wrote. "It may not be comfortable but all sides in this need one another." Many readers applauded Rehm's plea for civility and took the opportunity to say good-bye in the comments section. "Congratulations on a great career and an outstanding message for all involved in and around the American banking industry," one commenter wrote. "Just like Ted Williams, you have hit a home run in your final at bat." We, too, will miss Barb and would like to wish her well on all her future endeavors.
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