Bank of America to close Hudson branch on Friday



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HUDSON – Bank of America is closing its Hudson branch Friday as part of a nationwide plan to shrink its network of physical locations. Spokeswoman Anne Pace said the branch at 45 Lowell Road is one of two in New Hampshire slated for closure as more customers turn to online banking. The other is in Manchester. The Hudson building is listed for sale by CB Richard Ellis, and bids for the property are due by Aug. 15, said Gary J. Lemire, senior vice president and partner with the commercial real estate firm. "There have been a number of people that have expressed interest in it," Lemire said. After the two closures, Bank of America will have at least 34 branches remaining in New Hampshire, including four in Nashua, according to the company's Web site. There are two standalone ATMs in Hudson. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. could eventually shrink its 6,100-branch network by about 10 percent, The Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing Bank of America spokesman James Mahoney. Mahoney made the comments when asked about a Wall Street Journal report that CEO Ken Lewis and another bank executive described such a plan to investors at a meeting last week. The move would be a pullback from the bank's two-decade expansion, most recently under Lewis' command, which expanded the bank from coast to coast. "What took place was a discussion about the long-term direction of the company," Mahoney said. "Over the longer term, as customer demands evolve, we see a fewer number of branches that provide more services." Pace told The Telegraph this week that although the number of banking centers may decrease in the future, no final decisions have been made about the ultimate size of the bank's branch network. There are no immediate plans to close 10 percent of the branches, she said. Pace said the bank is consolidating in areas where there are several branch locations in close radius. She also said Bank of America customers are increasingly turning to online and mobile methods of banking. The nation's largest bank has 29 million customers that use online banking and 3 million that use the newer mobile banking service for smart phones, she said. However, Richard Bove of Rochdale Research told The Associated Press this week that the reason for the closures is both economic and regulatory. "While the bank is likely to close the branches, the reason being given is simply farcical," Bove wrote in a research note Tuesday. "The branches will be closed because they are not economically viable." The news comes as Bank of America continues to be under the careful watch of the U.S. government, while it works to integrate two recent deals. Bank of America acquired troubled mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. last summer and investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co. in January. Those two acquisitions have proven challenging for Lewis, who was stripped of his chairman title by a shareholder vote at his company's annual meeting in April. The bank and Lewis have been under intense scrutiny because Bank of America is one of the biggest recipients of government bailout money – $45 billion – and because the losses at Merrill Lynch turned out to be much higher than expected. It is not known when it will repay the government. Last week, Bank of America announced a big second-quarter profit but tempered the news by reporting it is still contending with losses from failed loans. During a call with analysts, Lewis said it would be "much tougher" to turn a profit for the rest of the year. "Closing branches actually makes a lot of sense from a standpoint of trying to cut costs and have profitability," said Jason O'Donnell, a senior research analyst at Boenning & Scattergood Inc. And because of the bank's numerous acquisitions over the years, "BofA does have the luxury of looking back and getting rid of overlap and overhead," O'Donnell said. The Hudson branch – then known as NFS Savings Bank – was the site of an infamous armored car heist in 1994 that left two guards dead. Five men were convicted for their role in that and a string of robberies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The branch continued to change names and hands, becoming first BankBoston and then FleetBoston. In 2004, Bank of America acquired FleetBoston Financial. According to town assessing records, the building and 1.2 acres are valued at $868,200.

 

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