See UPDATES below for more reader response
A Philadelphia reader, walking through Center City one day viewing all the new construction, realized to her surprise that an enterprise she thought was disappearing appears to be attracting new money and spreading to more corners.
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So she wrote to Curious Philly — where readers ask our reporters questions and we hunt down answers — and posed this excellent question:
“It seems there is a recent significant increase in the number of storefront banks opening in Center City. Given the high rent for these locations, and the fact that people increasingly conduct their banking business electronically, what’s the explanation for this sudden surge?”
She is right — while bank branches are going out of style in most places, some banks are adding offices in Center City, and more are sprucing up their existing operations so they are more visible.
The number of bank branches in the U.S. peaked in the mid-2000s at about 100,000 and has since declined to under 90,000, as more people bank online, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Banks have shut branches even faster in the Philadelphia area, which grew more slowly than the United States as a whole.
Yet there are also new bank branches — or at least new locations, and bright new signs — popping up in Center City, for several reasons:
UPDATE Feb. 4: Veteran Philly banker and lawyer Harmon Spolan writes:
"Here are some reasons from an old banker about why banks are opening branches:
- Business borrowers need to come in to see lenders in person, present their case for a loan, with financials, a business plan (and other docs)
- Customers with problems need to talk to a banker in person. Phone contact is frustrating (even with -- or because of) Artificial Intelligence
- Not everyone owns a computer or smart phone. So non-internet folks do not have remote access.
- Internet-connected customers (still) aren’t all adept at remote banking
- Under the (U.S.) Community Reinvestment Act, new branch applications require that banks serve low-income communities in need of a bank presence. That requirement can’t be met by alleging remote banking as a substitute
“How about establishing a personal relationship with your banker? It really helps to be known by the bank personnel when you need them.”
ROBBERY UPDATE: A reader, who doesn’t want her name used, says Center City banks are popular with thugs, too:
Just last week, three Center City banks east of Broad Street were robbed: