U.S. Bank opens first Charlotte branch as banking competition ramps up

Executives and local leaders celebrated the opening of U.S. Bank’s first North Carolina branch in uptown Charlotte Tuesday, a move that ramps up competition for customers in a city long dominated by two institutions.

The branch, in the old Dean & Deluca space at 201 S. Tryon St., is the first of 10 the company expects to open by the end of 2020 in the Charlotte area. U.S. Bank first entered the Charlotte market with its 2005 acquisition of a corporate trust group and other units from Charlotte’s Wachovia. It now employs about 800 in the region.

U.S. Bank, the seventh largest bank in the country by assets, is the latest financial institution to grow its presence in Charlotte. In August, JPMorgan Chase detailed plans to open up to 21 branches in Charlotte, the first of which will open at 112 S. Tryon early next year.

And the proposed $66 billion merger of BB&T and SunTrust to become Truist will bring another bank headquarters to Charlotte.

That competition is part of what attracted U.S. Bank to Charlotte, Dee O’Dell, who leads the company’s east region for consumer and business banking, told reporters.

“That’s an exciting piece of it for us as well, if we can come in and demonstrate that our unique offering in banking works well here,” he said.

Vying for customers

Still, the banks will have to lure customers away from the major players in town to gain a significant foothold in the market. Wells Fargo and Bank of America hold about 88% of deposits in the area, according to the latest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Banks are also vying to sponsor or fund various city initiatives: Ally Financial is the lead sponsor for Charlotte’s proposed Major League Soccer expansion bid. Multiple banks have given funding to affordable housing efforts in the city. And U.S. Bank announced in August it will contribute $1 million toward the construction of pedestrian bridge over Interstate 277, connecting South End and uptown.

“That’s a very unique thing ... for a bank to invest in infrastructure,” O’Dell said. “But it resonated with our employees, it resonated with our values.”

O’Dell said U.S. Bank will be announcing other community initiatives in the coming months.

A ‘human connection’

The Charlotte branch is the first piece of a broader expansion for the Minneapolis-based bank, which will result in about 60 to 80 new, relocated or redesigned branches by the end of 2020 in its core U.S. markets.

That comes at a time when banks are shedding some branches as more customers use mobile banking technology.

These are the most important decisions people make,” said Tim Welsh, vice chairman of consumer and business banking at U.S. Bank. “And however convenient it is to do on your phone ... that human connection is also critical.”

The new branch was designed with that in mind, he said. There’s a technology center to help customers learn how to use the bank’s app, for example.

“What we’re seeing in the branch of the future is the combination of the digital and the human,” he said.

U.S. Bank also added about 75 branded ATMs in CVS stores in the Charlotte region.

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.