Pa. leads US in bank branch shutdowns

Banks shut 767 more U.S. branches than they opened over the past year; more closed in Pennsylvania than in any other state, and Philadelphia lost more than any other metro area, says this report by Virginia-based SNL Financial LC.

Pennsylvania banks shut 119 bank branches, and opened just 36 new ones, for a net loss of 83, by SNL's count. The means the state lost about 2 percent of its bank-branch network last year; the state has 4,754 offices in all as of July 19, says the FDIC, the federal agency that insures bank deposits. List here.

Georgia, which has suffered a rash of bank failures in the metro Atlanta real estate crash, lost the second-higest number of branches, 51. New Jersey lost a net 31 of its 3,307 branches. Delaware was one of just four states where more banks opened than shut.

More than half of Pennsylvania's net bank disappearance took place in the relatively prosperous Philadelphia area, which lost a net 30 bank offices, compared with 20 for metro New York.

A look at SNL's list of major branch-closers shows why: Six of the Top Ten branch-closers last year -- Bank of America, Citizens, Wells Fargo, First Niagara, M&T, Susquehanna -- have large office networks in Pennsylvania. All have been closing sites, either as a result of acquiring offices near existing sites, or to save money, or both. 

PNC, the biggest bank based in Pennsylvania, also closed more offices than it opened last year. Since the 1990s, company executives at PNC and other big banks have said they expect to manage fewer physical branches as more customers bank online -- or, recently, from mobile devices -- and seldom visit bank offices.

But customers have been reluctant to abandon branches altogether, and banks chasing deposits and small-business customers continue to add sites. TD Bank, which absorbed fast-growing, Marlton-based Commerce Bancorp in 2007, is among the few U.S. banks that added branches in 2012, SNL data shows.

A typical bank branch employs up to 20 people. Some banks, like the Philadelphia area's Conestoga Bank, have been experimenting with video customer service links to reduce staffing at branches.