Bank of America ramps up branch modernization

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp said on Friday that more than half of its branch network will be modernized over the next three years to respond to changing consumer behavior.

The second largest U.S. bank by assets will renovate 2,500 retail financial services centers with more interactive technology and a layout that accommodates longer visits for customers who have more complex needs.

“We have been very encouraged by the initial results of our center redesigns and expansions,” Aron Levine, head of Consumer Banking & Investments for Bank of America told Reuters. “This work has enabled us to have more in-depth conversations with our clients about their financial plans and priorities.”

The announcement accelerates plans put in place last year to redesign 1,500 centers. Bank of America also said it planned to upgrade its network of 16,000 ATMs to allow customers to pay credit card bills and withdraw cash with their phones, and install an additional 2,700 machines.

By 2021, Bank of America’s branch and ATM network will cover more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, said David Tyrie, head of consumer advanced solutions and digital banking.

The percentage of customers who prefer to make their transactions in brick and mortar banks fell to 26 percent from 38 percent in 2016, according to a study published this year by consulting firm McKinsey. However, the firm found that banks that closed a significant number of branches must rely more heavily on advertising to win market share.

For many years banks have been paring back their branch networks due to dwindling foot traffic as more and more people opt to handle routine transactions online. But over the past year some banks have announced plans to expand again.

Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America said on Friday that it will expand its retail banking presence in two new markets, Cleveland and Lexington, Kentucky, next year as part of a previously announced pledge to add 500 branches.

The expansion is expected to add up to 5,500 jobs in local markets, the bank said Friday.

Last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the largest U.S. bank by assets, started adding bank branches in new cities for the first time in nearly a decade. The bank, which has roughly 5,000 branches nationwide, said it would open locations in new cities and markets such as Boston, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh.

By 2022, 93 percent of the U.S. population will be in JPMorgan’s “Chase footprint,” Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said in his 2019 annual letter to shareholders.

Bank of America has about 4,300 branches, according to its most recent filing, down more than 1,000 from its peak.

Reporting by Imani Moise; additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio