Will branch banking die? No quick or easy answer

Since Internet banking took hold the idea of the branch bank going the way of the paper ledger has been a topic of much discourse in the industry.

The discourse continues now that mobile banking — banking by smartphone and tablet — is all the rage and continues to grow as more banks take advantage of the technology.

As this Northwestern Financial Review post points out, the industry has added 20,000 more branches in the past decade.

Then again, all you have to do is take a look at the biggest consumer bank in the country and wonder aloud if branch banking is on its last leg. Just about every week for the past year or more, Bank of America has been shedding multiple branches across the country as it looks to become more efficient and shrink its branch network by 10 percent. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank, by the way, has typically been the first to adapt to new means of delivering banking services, including mobile banking.

And as the population of bank customers who prefer online banking grows and matures, you can’t help but think there is a tipping point at which the branch office will be considered an outdated concept. Maintaining branch buildings and employing people to staff them is much more expensive compared with maintaining computer networks and technology that isn’t as staff intensive.