Banking

Fifth Third to sell, consolidate about 100 U.S. branches; Charlotte impact unknown

The Fifth Third Bank Center at 201 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte. On Monday, the Cincinnati-based lender announced plans to sell or consolidate about 8 percent of its 1,303 U.S. branches, but the company declined to disclose whether Charlotte will be impacted.
The Fifth Third Bank Center at 201 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte. On Monday, the Cincinnati-based lender announced plans to sell or consolidate about 8 percent of its 1,303 U.S. branches, but the company declined to disclose whether Charlotte will be impacted.

Fifth Third Bancorp announced Monday plans to consolidate or sell about 8 percent of its U.S. branches as it responds to more customers conducting routine transactions online. But the Cincinnati-based lender declined to disclose whether the Charlotte area will be affected.

Fifth Third is the fourth-largest bank by deposits in the Charlotte region, where it operates about 40 branches, according to the latest federal data on bank market share. Fifth Third said its plans will affect approximately 100 of its 1,303 U.S. retail branches, which are scattered across the Southeast, Northeast and Midwest.

On Monday, Fifth Third spokesman Larry Magnesen said the lender is not providing details on where it might close branches.

“In some cases, two locations may be consolidated into one of the existing locations,” Magnesen said. “Other possibilities include sometimes construction of a new location to serve two or more existing facilities.”

The lender also announced Monday plans to sell approximately 30 pieces of property it had purchased to build new branches. Magnesen declined to disclose the locations of those properties.

The plans come at a time when other lenders are closing branches as customers increasingly conduct basic transactions on smartphones and other devices.

Nationwide, banks and thrifts posted 332 net branch closures in the first three months of this year, according to data firm SNL Financial. North Carolina’s net loss of 15 branches was the 8th highest amount among 48 states that reported branch openings, closures or both.

Closing branches, which are costly to operate, also allows banks to reduce expenses at a time when low interest rates and other factors make growing revenues a challenge. Fifth Third said Monday’s plan is expected to cut its operating expenses on an annualized basis by about $60 million.

Magnesen said Fifth Third still considers branches a critical part of its distribution system. But Fifth Third is also seeing a change in how customers use its branches, he said.

“The branches are evolving to be much more of a consultative center for advice and information from experts, as opposed to a place to simply hand a check across the counter.”

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Twitter: @DeonERoberts

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