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Bank of America may close branches, disputes '10 percent' report in Wall Street Journal

http://66.225.205.104/0729bofabranches.mp3

Bank of America confirms it may reduce the number of bank branches. B of A has 6,109 branches, second only to Wells Fargo. But the executive who oversees Bank of America's branches disputes reports that say it will cut the number by 10 percent. The speculation started with a Wall Street Journal report based on anonymous sources. That report says CEO Ken Lewis told investors in Charlotte last week that he will reduce the number of branches by 10 percent. But that's not exactly how it all went down, according to Liam McGee, who attended the meeting. McGee is president of B of A's branch banking division. He says the Journal blew Lewis' comments out of proportion. "I think he was asked a question, 'Boy, could there be x-percentage less branches in the next few years?' And he was just saying, 'Yeah, could be, and if there was it would be in magnitude of this as opposed to a much higher number.'" McGee says the bank is going through a 3-year evaluation process that could result in fewer branches, but that no particular number is targeted. He says customers' changing habits are driving the process. "Just to give you an example, mobile banking - which is using your Blackberry or I-Phone or similar devices to interact with us, bank with us, transfer money, etc. - in about 18 months has gone from zero customers using it to now almost 3 million active mobile banking customers, just with Bank of America." And yes, McGee says those changing habits will lead to more savings for Bank of America. After all, it's cheaper to run Internet banking services than multiple bank branches. But B of A still needs to put a dollar figure on the savings.