PNC to close downtown branch

Company officials didn’t specify the number of employees affected but said the bank will do its best to relocate workers from the 4 W. Main St. branch when it closes Feb. 22.

The move comes at a time when Springfield’s downtown has seen a lot of activity — both new businesses and development, as well as some closures. City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said he was disappointed to hear about PNC’s plans.

“They were basically the anchor for that building. Hopefully, they can find someone to take their place relatively soon because the building is an important piece of downtown,” Bodenmiller said.

James Rohr, chairman and chief executive officer of PNC Financial Services Group, said at a financial services conference in New York on Tuesday the company is cutting costs. The banking industry is combating low interest rates, slow economic growth and increasing regulations, Rohr said.

“Assuming these low interest rates persist, we plan to accelerate branch consolidations in 2013 and we will consider repricing some of our products,” he told investors.

The downtown Springfield building has had a banking presence dating back more than 100 years, said John Federer, formerly senior vice president and regional manager of National City Bank, which was acquired by PNC in 2008. Federer is now Clark County auditor.

“Everyone has their operating model they have to work within and having a downtown office for PNC must not fit into their model,” Federer said.

That same office previously housed National City and earlier the headquarters of First National Bank of Springfield/BancOhio.

The bank doesn’t own the building. The out-of-state owner declined to comment.

Maureen Fagans, Center City Association executive director, said she’s always concerned when businesses leave downtown. The nonprofit group, which promotes downtown, plans to “double their efforts” to help the property manager get the space leased as soon as possible.

Accounts that originated with the closing branch will transfer to the 2222 N. Limestone St. office.

“We always review our branch network to make sure we are meeting the needs of our customers and to meet them in the most cost effective way,” said Amy Vargo, a PNC spokeswoman.

“Bottom line, our customers are using branches very differently today,” Vargo said.

PNC is shifting the focus of bank branch interactions with customers to sales and consulting, and leveraging alternative banking channels to conduct routine transactions. Retail branch transactions are the most expensive, compared to online, mobile or ATMs.

“Fewer customers are writing checks today. More are conducting transactions online and with mobile devices. At the same time we know that branches remain an important driver of brand awareness and branch location is a key factor in selecting a bank,” Rohr said.

PNC has four other Springfield branches — North and South Limestone streets, East Main Street and Upper Valley Pike, as well as a location in New Carlisle. It is Clark County’s third largest bank by deposits with about $232 million, or 15 percent market share, behind Security National Bank and Huntington Bancshares, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The only other Central Ohio branch PNC plans to close is in Newark.

PNC isn’t alone in closing branches. WesBanco closed its New Carlisle office this year, KeyBank closed one in Trotwood and Fifth Third Bank relocated a Beavercreek branch to a Bank Mart inside a Kroger store.

U.S. Bank has opted to open more locations in grocery and retail stores than open traditional branches.

The closure is bad for downtown, but “there are plenty of banks to accommodate the customers downtown … I don’t think downtown is going to be hurt personally,” said Andy Irick, senior vice president of retail banking for Security National.

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