PNC shrinks branch network

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PNC Bank shrunk its branch network by 160 offices last year, the most of any bank nationwide except for Bank of America, an analysis released Monday by SNL Financial found.

Collectively, banks cut their branch total by 1,487 locations in 2013, SNL said, as the industry contended with persistently low interest rates, slow loan growth and escalating costs.

Lenders large and small "grappled with weak revenue growth and heavy [regulatory] compliance costs that are motivating them to reduce the fixed expenses tied to large branch networks," said SNL, a Charlottesville, Va.-based research firm.

PNC, Pittsburgh's dominant bank and the eighth biggest nationwide, closed 182 branches and opened 22 others across its 19-state footprint in 2013 for a net loss of 160, SNL said. Bank of America, the nation's second-biggest bank, had a net loss of 189 branches.

After the retrenchment, PNC had 2,880 branches compared with Charlotte, N.C.- based Bank of America's 5,200, SNL said.

SunTrust in Atlanta had the third-highest number of branch closings last year with a net loss of 123 offices, followed by Cleveland's KeyCorp with 60 and Capital One in McLean, Va., with 34.

In addition to shuttering or selling branches, many banks are redesigning their offices to make them smaller, SNL said.

Earlier this month, PNC CEO William Demchak told analysts in a conference call that the current number of branches "feels about right." But as customers continue to shift toward electronic banking with less of a need to go inside branches, the bank expects to continue to downsize existing offices, Mr. Demchak said.

PNC has been experimenting with lower-cost tellerless branches that are roughly half the size of traditional branches and rely on advanced-function ATMs to accept deposits and cash checks, such as the bank's e-branch in Bakery Square in Larimer that opened in July.

Patricia Sabatini: or 412-263-3066.

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