IN TOWN: Charlie Wilson, owner of The Town Trader in Glocester, says that having a responsive, local institution such as Navigant Credit Union has helped him prosper.
PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL PERSSON
By Rhonda J. Miller
With many financial services easily accessible online and on smartphones, some banks in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts are sticking to the strategy of expanding the number of bricks-and-mortar branches as a valuable presence for consumer and commercial customers.
“We’ve had a branch-expansion strategy for some years now. It’s been slow and steady,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Navigant Credit Union Lisa Dandeneau. “It accelerated a bit last year because there were some acquisition opportunities, so we had more expansion than we would have in a typical year.”
Navigant and other local banks are diverging from the national trend.
“Following years of nearly unchecked expansion, financial institutions across the U.S. are closing thousands of outposts, as pressures mount to cut costs and more customers embrace online and mobile banking,” according to a March 31 story in the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. banks and thrifts shut 2,267 branches in 2012, according to SNL Financial, a Charlottesville, Va., research firm. “That put the U.S. bank-branch count at 93,000, the lowest since 2007, according to AlixPartners, a New York consulting firm,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “The firm expects the figures to drop to 80,000 over the next decade, putting the total closer in line with 2000 levels.”
As for Navigant, bricks-and-mortar branches have a long and rich history in Rhode Island. The first credit union in Rhode Island, it was founded in 1915 in Central Falls. Starting with assets of $22,000, Navigant grew to $15 million in assets by 1964 and currently has more than $1 billion in assets, according to the credit union website.
With growth to the current 63,000 members and 13 Rhode Island branches, Navigant has continued to add technological services while being dedicated to the value of personal service at community branches.