Bank of America to cut up to 10% of its branches

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Bank of America's CEO, Ken Lewis, has been framing plans to close as many as 10% of its branches, not just a cost-saving method, but one that's time has been coming since so many of its customers are using mobile and online banking these days.

Interesting point and probably true. Still, its timing is lousy. While a bank has to do what it has to do, it's sad to see yet another business plotting to kill jobs during a flagging economy. Bank of America has 6,100 branches, and so if it cut as much as 10% of its branches (an exact figure hasn't been determined), that's a lot of full-time and part-time positions lost.

But the customers are also going to lose out. The banks have been at ground zero during the recession. In part, they've been responsible for the recession, of course, but they've also been part of the solution and sanctuary as well.

Paying your bills? You're probably doing it through your bank's web site. Online bill paying is a big reason the postal service is having so many problems these days. But my guess is that you're also going to visit your neighborhood bank a lot, too -- either to see someone about refinancing, or to ask about getting a credit card with a better interest rate or to discuss why your account was hit with four overdraft fees and a non-sufficient funds charge.

Sure, a 10% smaller Bank of America footprint across the country isn't likely to devastate its customers. The ones who no longer have a branch within a few miles of their home will drive a couple extra miles to the next nearest BofA, or they'll decide they can talk to someone over the phone. Or, like a lot of people, they'll simply switch banks.

People will adjust. It's not a calamity for the customers. But earlier this month, a new banking survey indicated that customer service needs to be beefed up. So it seems like a big mistake to me for BofA to give up the very place that people can go to, to achieve customer satisfaction, when customer satisfaction appears to be at an all-time low. As the saying goes, good luck with that.


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