More Americans than ever are using websites and smartphone apps to pay bills, deposit checks, and transfer money.
Yet banks and credit unions are building new branches. These include two buildings that have opened in the Côte-Nord region in the past year, and more are under construction nearby.
These and other developments, including one slated for a prime location in Wauwatosa, show that banks and credit unions still need physical locations, even as online banking continues to grow.
Some clients still want to meet with bankers in person, especially when they have more complex deals like mortgages and business loans.
Other transactions, such as auto loans, could involve most of the online work – with the borrower still wanting a final in-person meeting, said Brian Melter, Landmark Credit Union’s director of experience.
“What we’re trying to do is support the way you do business with us,” Melter said.
The branches also provide a foundation for volunteering on Habitat for Humanity house building projects, offering financial literacy classes, sponsoring community events and organizing other activities, he said.
Several new Landmark installations
Landmark, which is completing a new head office in Brookfield, opened a branch in the town of Brookfield, at 19600 W. Blue Mound Road, in February 2020; a Greenfield branch at 8300 W. Layton Ave. last July and a Glendale branch at 6300 N. Port Washington Road in January.
The Credit Union has two more branches under construction at 10865 N. Port Washington Road, Mequon, which will open in mid-June, and at 2309 Fox Run Blvd., Waukesha, which will open in early fall.
Melter declined to say how much Landmark is investing in these developments.
He said branches today average around 3,000 square feet, up from over 5,000 square feet five to 10 years ago.
These smaller buildings reflect the reduced need for cashiers as more people use online banking for regular transactions, along with a lower demand for safes, Melter said.
The increased use of credit cards, debit cards and electronic payments also means that Landmark does not keep as much cash in its branches. This translates to less trunk space, he said.
In addition, there are fewer private offices for bankers in favor of open workspaces, he said.
Three projects at Glendale
Landmark’s Glendale branch is one of three new credit unions and banks that have thrived in this community over the past year.
Associated Bank opened a new branch in late December 2019 at 6745 N. Port Washington Road, less than a mile north of the new Landmark branch.
In addition, Chase Bank opened a branch in Glendale at 209 W. Silver Spring Drive in January, replacing an old gas station.
It is one of 10 bank branches located on or just off Silver Spring Drive, Port Washington Road, Glendale, Lake Drive, Whitefish Bay.
Another branch is under construction on this stretch of approximately 1 mile: a town bank at 115 W. Silver Spring Drive, Whitefish Bay. Its opening is scheduled for the end of August.
The affluent North Shore region is a strong market, said Jay Mack, president and CEO of Hartland-based Town Bank, a division of Rosemont, Ill., Based Wintrust Financial Corp.
The two-story building will feature a street-level retail branch, with business banking, mortgages and wealth management services on the second floor.
“The Whitefish Bay office will help us expand our footprint and reach a larger potential customer base,” Mack said.
“We have already banked a number of downtown professionals and business owners who live in the area, so the new office will be convenient for them,” he said.
Not everyone is happy with the proliferation of bank branches along Silver Spring Drive.
The Town Bank plans, which replaced a dental office and another one-story office building, drew comments from disgruntled residents of the area when it was announced.
“We don’t need another bank,” wrote one person on the Whitefish Bay Civic Foundation Facebook page. “We need more local small businesses.
Branches are regrouping
Not surprisingly, new bank branches and credit unions tend to grow in the wealthier areas. They’re chasing the same customers, just like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s often cluster next to each other on the same roads.
Brookfield is among the communities in the Milwaukee area that have seen new branches built in the past two years.
This includes a Summit Credit Union building which opened in July 2019 at 920 S. Moorland Road.
Summit, which completed its new Cottage Grove headquarters two years ago, has since built two more Waukesha County branches, at 2208 E. Moreland Blvd., Waukesha, in November 2019 and 1468 E. Capitol Drive, village of Pewaukee, last October.
Meanwhile, the North Shore Bank opened its first branch in Germantown in July at N112 W15800 Mequon Road, and in October opened a branch at 15830 W. Capitol Drive, Brookfield, replacing an older building at that address.
Another large-scale branch replacement, for BMO Harris Bank, held its inauguration in September at the new BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee.
Also in downtown, Brookfield’s North Shore Bank opened a branch at 510 E. Pleasant St.
Finally, UW Credit Union is opening its new branch on May 5 at 6611 S. 27th St., Franklin, and building a new branch next to its Glendale branch at 6016 N. Port Washington Road.
The Madison-based credit union also plans to add branches in 2022 and 2023 at 115 W. Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee; 15300 W. Blue Mound Road, Elm Grove and 5100 S. 76th St., Greenfield.
Concern about underserved areas
With many of these new locations in wealthier areas, the question arises as to whether low-income neighborhoods are underserved – a chronic problem that includes the discriminatory lending practice known as redlining.
Melter said Landmark doesn’t want “to be the people who just branch out in certain areas.”
He cited Landmark’s long-standing West Milwaukee location at 4501 W. National Ave., as well as a possible replacement of its old branch at the Walmart store in Midtown Center. The branch, on the north side of Milwaukee, closed when Walmart closed the store in 2016.
Summit’s locations in Waukesha County “are on a Madison Road” which also includes branches in West Milwaukee, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, Greenfield and Franklin, said chief executive and chairman Kim Sponem.
“We take a number of factors into account when selecting a location, including locations that are currently underserved by a credit union,” she said.
The new buildings go against a larger trend across the United States, including Wisconsin.
The Badger State had 1,855 bank branches as of June 30, according to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
These figures have been declining steadily for several years and represent a decrease of 13% since June 2016.
The total number of Wisconsin credit union locations, which make up about a third of the number of bank locations, has remained largely stable.
But banks and credit unions – the latter are financial cooperatives owned by their members rather than shareholders – have been affected by the growing popularity of online banking.
Indeed, Green Bay-based Associated Bank announced in September that it would close or consolidate 14 branches across Wisconsin as customers continue to migrate to digital banking.
This list included four locations in the Milwaukee area.
Meanwhile, an American Bankers Association survey released in November found that for the first time ever, bank customers were transacting through mobile apps more often than any other method – a trend affected by the COVID pandemic. -19.
Before COVID-19, 36% of banking customers used apps on phones or other mobile devices as the first choice to manage their bank accounts.
The survey found that 29% used online banking services the most through laptops or other personal computers, while 17% did business most often at bank branches.
After the pandemic, the use of mobile apps and online banking increased to 39% and 32%, while branch banking services fell to 10%, according to the survey.
Other forms of banking services included ATMs, telephone transactions and mail.
The growth of digital banking is also affecting small community banks such as Horicon Bank, based in the namesake community of Dodge County.
But that didn’t stop Horicon Bank from announcing in February its intention to build a flagship branch to house retail banking, corporate loan offices and executive offices at The Mayfair Collection, a mixed-use development in east of I-41 and north of West Burleigh. Wauwatosa Street.
The 7,500-square-foot two-story building, which will be subject to a review by the Planning Commission, is scheduled to open next summer, said Fred C. Schwertfeger, senior vice president.
The branch, along with an opening this fall at 15600 W. Cleveland Ave., New Berlin, will provide venues for face-to-face meetings to make business loans and other transactions, Schwertfeger said.
In addition, the high visibility of The Mayfair Collection site will help market the Horicon Bank entrance to the Milwaukee metro area, he said. Its only other location is in West Bend.
Banks also still serve as community gathering places, especially for their older customers, Schwertfeger said.
“I know they like to have a cup of coffee or read a newspaper in our bank,” Schwertfeger said.
“These are characteristics of community life that are difficult to replace,” he said.
Tom Daykin can be emailed to email@example.com and followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.