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Bank of America sells largest number of branches, report says

Bank of America has sold more branches than any other U.S. bank so far in 2013 as it continues to cut locations and reduce costs, a new report shows.

As of Sept. 17, the Charlotte-based bank had sold 118 branches in six deals, giving up $4.05 billion in deposits, data from SNL Financial show. None of the sales was in North or South Carolina.

SKBHC Holdings sold 15 branches, the second-largest number, totaling $257.7 million in deposits.

Bank of America has been selling and shuttering U.S. branches as part of its massive companywide cost-cutting program known as Project New BAC, announced in 2011.

A year ago, the second-largest U.S. lender by assets reported it had roughly 5,600 branches. A Bank of America press release from this month says it now has roughly 5,300.

Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace said in a statement that the bank is constantly modifying its branch network as it tries to meet customers’ changing needs and habits.

“That includes consolidating branches where we have overlap or investing in new or modifying branches where there is a need,” she said. “In select instances, we sell some centers when an outright closure would leave the employees with few employment opportunities and customers with no convenient branch.”

The bank plans to cut more branches, executives say. During a second-quarter earnings call in July, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said plans call for a drop to 5,000 branches by the end of next year.

Bank of America is not only getting rid of branches. It’s also eliminating drive-up teller service at some locations, including in the Charlotte region. The bank has said there’s not enough demand for the service at some branches.

Bank of America closed 675 branches over the past five years, more than any other bank, SNL said in a report earlier this year. Wells Fargo closed 508 over the same period.

Last year, an Observer analysis found that nearly a third of Bank of America’s U.S. branch closures had occurred in low- to moderate-income communities. Bank officials, though, said they continue to maintain and add more branches in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods than other big banks.

Bank of America’s largest batch of branches sold so far in 2013 was to Seattle-based Washington Federal. The 51 branches are in Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico and Oregon, and come with $1.8 billion in deposits and $11 million in loans. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

SNL said that overall, branch deals have declined this year as banks opt to consolidate and close locations rather than sell them. That’s because banks don’t want to shrink their footprints in a market or give up deposits, SNL said.

According to SNL, 2013 is on pace to end with roughly 79 U.S. branch deals, down from 88 last year and 81 in 2011. So far this year, there have been 56 deals involving the sale of 240 branches.

Roberts: 704-358-5248 Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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