U.S. banks provide more digital services, but people continue to visit brunches

U.S. banks provide more digital services, but people continue to visit brunchesU.S. customers prefer to visit their bank brunches instead of using banking online tools, making it harder for the industry to slim down.

U.S. banks have trimmed the number of branches by 6 percent since it peaked in 2009, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp data. At the end of 2015 there were only 93.283 branches open, which shows the lowest level in a decade.

In order to lower the cost many banks are trying to decrease the number of brunches. But bank executives argue, however, that branches remain crucial for acquiring new customers and doing more business with existing ones. Closures, they say, would hurt revenue more than help reduce costs.

"Our customers still want to visit us. They're still coming to our stores and our ATMs at pretty consistent rates." Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo's head of ATM and store strategy, said.

Bankers across the industry share that view. They say online banking complements traditional services for U.S. customers, but few have gone fully digital.

Sufficient is the fact that U.S. customers still routinely use checks and need branches to process them.

As American customers remain more conservative, still the U.S. have cut relatively more branches than banks in Germany, France or Canada, but not nearly as many as those in Greece, Ireland, Spain or Italy.

Many bankers also prefer to work with their clients while they visiting brunches. Branches are the best way to sell clients many products and services ranging from mortgages to investment advice, according to Gordon Smith, JPMorgan's head of consumer and community banking.

John Elmore, vice chairman of community banking and branch delivery at U.S. Bancorp, says branches are especially important for small businesses that need to deposit cash frequently, prefer to negotiate loans in person, or want strategic advice.

Banks do keep trying to steer customers to digital tools. It makes easier for customers to accomplish their routine tasks and do what they need without going anywhere.

JPMorgan and Wells Fargo data show most customers visit branches several times every quarter, though younger clients tend to visit less often.
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