Our View: Banking On It

Been to the bank lately?

Fewer and fewer people have been, it seems. This week we learned that Bank of America will be closing its Chatham branch March 27; just about a year ago, TD Bank also closed its Chatham office. One of the main reasons given for the closures is changing bank habits. A Bank of America spokesperson said that these days, people rarely visit branch offices, dropping by mostly for financial planning, getting a loan or establishing a business relationship.

Consumer banking has largely migrated to the internet. When was the last time you went to a branch office to check your balance, make a transfer, or even deposit a check? All of that can now be done on your home computer or even your smartphone. It's possible to scan a check to make a deposit, review your statement and address any problems without interacting with a teller or other bank officer. Need cash? ATMs are everywhere. No need to ever set foot in a branch office.

As with many other aspects of our increasingly online world, this has led to less interaction between bank staff and customers. Remember when you knew all the tellers at your bank by first name? And they knew your kids, and whether they get a lollipop when you're at the drive-thru? It's the trade-off for convenience, of course, and at this point there's no going back. What was once a traditional anchor of the community – the neighborhood bank – is slipping away.

Interestingly, the two branches that closed in Chatham were national banks with hundreds of offices and thousands of ATMs throughout the country. Both have offices in neighboring towns, and apparently felt it worth their while to consolidate services there rather than continue to serve Chatham customers in their own community. That leaves the town with three bank offices, two of which are local – The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank and Rockland Trust, which is centered in Southern New England. Both appear strongly committed to the local community, with the Cape Cod Five building a new operations center in Barnstable. We hope they also retain their local offices. Even as technology marches on, we'd hate to lose that traditional community connection.