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Friday, October 31, 2008

Could the Bronx Lose 13 Bank Branches?

As of this summer, the Bronx had 146 full service bank branches (source: FDIC), 10 more than it had a year earlier (plus a number of credit unions). That may sound like a decent number, but when I ran the numbers last year (when there were 136), our branch to household ration was at 1:3,443 -- dead last in the City, three times off Manhattan's pace (where everyone was complaining about too many bank branches), and lagging behind all 50 states (and, for good measure, Puerto Rico).

Also important to consider is that branches tend to cluster around each other: think of all the branches on Fordham Road and in Norwood on Bainbridge/204th and Jerome. Now how many branches are in between? Two. It's much worse in South Fordham where there aren't any branches until you get to Burnside Ave (where there happens to be a brand new Amalgamated Bank branch).

If you lived at Third Ave and E. 168th Street in Morrissania there wouldn't be a branch for nearly a mile away in any direction. The same would hold true if you lived around Southern Boulevard between Longwood Ave and E 149th Street. (See the map image below for "The Black Hole of Banking in the Bronx" where a densely populated square mile is isolated from any branch presence for at least a half mile away in every direction.)

Despite the presence of decent sized commercial strips in these areas, banks are very hesitant to open up new branches in areas that have no branches. Instead they'd rather open up on strips where they face major competition from other branches.

In addition to leaving large swaths of the borough without a branch (where fringe financial services like check cashsers and pawn shops have filled the void and thrived), this strategy leaves the borough vulnerable to branch closings when mergers and acquisitions take place. For instance, with WaMu's failure and acquisisition by Chase, it's very plausible we'll be out 13 branches in the near future. While the neighborhoods affected will still have at least one bank branch, it will undoubtedly lead to longer lines for a teller.

I've mapped out all the full service bank branches in the Bronx, and there are 12 areas highlighted where a Chase and WaMu branch are within a short walking distance of each other, including Fordham Road where there are two WaMu's and one Chase within that distance:
And finally, if you want to keep score on who's had the most bank branches in the Bronx as of June 2008, here were the standings with Chase and WaMu in the top spots:
30 - JPMorgan Chase Bank
20 - Washington Mutual Bank
14 - Capital One
13 - Citibank
11 - HSBC Bank USA
10 - Bank of America
9 - Ridgewood Savings Bank
5 - Banco Popular North America
5 - Emigrant Savings Bank
4 - Apple Bank for Savings
4 - Ponce De Leon Federal Bank
4 - TD Bank (Commerce)
3 - Amalgamated Bank
2 - Country Bank
2 - Hudson Valley Bank
2 - New York Community Bank
2 - New York National Bank
1 - CheckSpring Bank
1 - NorthEast Community Bank
1 - Signature Bank
1 - Sovereign Bank
1 - The Dime Svgs. Bank of Williamsburgh
1 - Wachovia Bank (Soon to be Wells Fargo?)

Note: I didn't count ATM only branches or Capital One's branch at the Roosevelt Campus.


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