This week Citigroup announced it would lay off 11,000 workers worldwide and shutter at least 44 U.S. branches. The move comes at a time of transition for the bank, which in October saw the resignation of CEO Vikram Pandit, who had been tapped to manage the bank's recovery from the bursting of the credit bubble.
In its news release, the company said its cuts are consistent with its "strategy of focusing on the 150 cities that have the highest growth potential in consumer banking."
What that means in practice is that Citi customers in smaller cities and towns may have to travel farther to reach a branch than before. The branches slated to be closed are located in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia, according to a person familiar with the actions being taken at the bank.
In some ways it's not surprising to see a megabank shedding some of its more than 4,000 branches in an age when customers do an increasing share of their banking business online and deposit checks into their checking accounts in seconds via a smartphone.
Still, not all banks are scaling back. JPMorgan Chase & Co., for instance, has added 150 branches to its 5,600-branch network this year, according to a recent speech by its chief financial officer, Doug Braunstein.
From David Henry of Reuters:
"Besides catering to individuals with bank accounts, credit cards and home loans, branches support the company's services to small and mid-sized companies and its offerings of investment products to the affluent."
In Braunstein's words: "Branches are core to our business."
So who's right? Citi or Chase?
Do banks need to continue growing their branch networks to serve customers, or do they need to slim down to cut costs? Do you pick a bank based on branch convenience, or something else?
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