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Bank of America branch to close in September

Bank of America’s Vashon branch will close this fall after serving the island for 35 years, the company recently announced.

The reason behind the closure is a decline in transactions at the island facility, according to Britney Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the bank. More and more, she said, instead of going to the bank, people are relying on new technologies, such as mobile and online banking, to deal with their banking needs. The branch is set to close Sept. 20.

Bank of America will send out letters to its Vashon customers later this month, informing them of the decision to close on the island, Sheehan said.

“We will give them ample time to discuss options,” she said.

She noted that Bank of America has branches in West Seattle and Tacoma that may be convenient for some islanders.

Sheehan declined to say how many individuals or businesses bank at the Vashon branch, but according to the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation, as of June 30, 2012, the three island banks held nearly equal shares of the banking market, with Bank of America and Chase showing roughly $41 million on deposit — approximately 33 percent of the island’s banking market shares — and US Bank holding 34 percent.

Additionally, Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) has about 2,500 members and $25 million on deposit, according to Branch Manager Patte Wagner.

Sheehan, with Bank of America, said she did not know if the Vashon branch had lost customers in recent years, contributing to the falling number of transactions. Bank of America officials had not looked at the Vashon situation in that “granular” of a way, she said.

At PSCCU, however, Wagner noted that when the credit union opened in the spring of 2011, many who had been banking elsewhere moved their money.

“We drew customers from all the large banks,” she said.

While it is not clear what effect the credit union may have had on Bank of America’s decision, the closing of its Vashon branch is part a nationwide trend. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, in the United States last year, banks and thrifts closed more than 2,200 branches, and more are set to follow. Within the next decade, the number of banks is expected to shrink to 2000 levels.

The same Wall State Journal article reported that in 2012, Bank of America closed nearly 200  branches — in line with its goal of eliminating 12 percent of branches over the next few years.

On Vashon, five employees currently work at the bank, according to Branch Manager Barbara Rice, who referred all questions to Sheehan. Rice noted that she has worked at the bank for 22 years.

To continue to serve islanders, Sheehan said, a full-service Bank of America ATM will be installed on Vashon, with details about its features and location following at a later date.

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