Guest Post: Take It To The Bank

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog,

Reports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink really get my goat. As I travel the increasingly vacant highways of Montgomery County, PA I’m keenly aware of my surroundings. If I were a foreigner visiting for the first time, I’d think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. I’ve detailed the slow disintegration of our suburban sprawl paradise in previous articles:


Are you Seeing What I’m Seeing?

More than 30 Blocks of Grey and Decay

Extend & Pretend Coming to an End

Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. Gas stations are shuttered on a daily basis as the ongoing depression results in less miles being driven by unemployed and underemployed suburbanites. At least the Chinese “Space Available” sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters.


The sad part is that I live in a relatively prosperous county with a low level of SNAP recipients and primarily occupied by a white collar college educated populace. If the clear downward spiral in my upper middle class county is an indication of our country’s path, the less well-off counties across the land must be in deep trouble.

While hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant, office and industrial space have been vacated in the last six years, the only entities expanding in my area have been banks, drug stores, municipal buildings and healthcare facilities. I have been flabbergasted by what I’ve viewed as a complete waste of resources to create facilities that weren’t needed and wouldn’t be utilized. I have seven drug stores within five miles of my house. I have ten bank branches within five miles of my house. While two perfectly fine older hospitals in Norristown were abandoned, a brand new $300 million super deluxe, glass encased Einstein Hospital palace was built three miles away by a barely above junk bond status non-profit institution. None of this makes sense in a contracting economy.

This is another classic case of mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity. Cheap money leads to bad investments. I’m all for competition between drug store chains and banks. CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are the three big chains in the country. I have my pick of multiple stores close to my house. There are clearly too many stores competing for a dwindling number of customers, with a dwindling supply of disposable income. The only reason Rite Aid is still in the picture is the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve. They have been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for the last five years, but continue to get cheap financing from the Wall Street cabal, who would rather pretend they will get paid, than write-off the bad debt. Who in their right mind would continue to lend money to a company with $6 billion in debt, NEGATIVE $2.3 billion of equity, and losses exceeding $2 billion since 2008? They are the poster child for badly run businesses that over expanded, took on too much debt and should be liquidated. There are over 4,600 zombie Rite Aid stores littering the countryside waiting to be put out of their misery.

the walking dead season 4 rick grimes  rite-aid-corner-abandoned

Rite Aid will never repay the $6 billion of debt. They know it. Their auditors know it. Their Wall Street lenders know it. The Federal Reserve Bank regulators know it. Anyone with a functioning brain knows it. Tune in to CNBC for those who are paid to keep clueless investors from knowing it. Interest rates that actually reflected risk and weren’t manipulated to an artificially low level by the Federal Reserve would make financing for a dog like Rite Aid a non-starter. Creative destruction would be allowed to work its magic, with winners separated from losers. Instead Rite Aid continues as a zombie entity, barely surviving for now. This exact scenario applies to J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Sears and a myriad of other dead retailers walking. Rather than suffering the consequences of appalling management judgment, dreadful strategic decisions, and reckless financial gambles, they have been allowed to remain on life support compliments of Bernanke, his Wall Street chiefs, and the American taxpayer.

In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit.  Extending debt payment schedules of zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009. The Federal Reserve is responsible for zombifying the entire country. And it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice made by those in power in order to maintain the status quo. The fateful day in March 2009 when the pencil pushing lightweight accountants at the FASB rescinded mark to market accounting rules gave birth to zombie nation. And not coincidently, marked the bottom for the stock market. Wall Street banks were free to fabricate their earnings, pretend they didn’t have hundreds of billions in bad loans on their books, and extend the terms of commercial real estate loans that were in default. With their taxpayer funded TARP ransom, ability to borrow at 0% from Uncle Ben, and the $3 trillion of QE cocaine snorted up their noses in the last four years, the mal-investment, fraud, and idiocy of the Wall Street drug addicts has reached a crescendo.

Commerce Bank

The mal-investment by zombie drug store chains has only been exceeded by the foolish, egocentric, insane bank branch expansion by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street CEOs. In the last ten years dozens of bank branches have been built in the vicinity of my house and across the state of Pennsylvania. These gleaming glass TARP palaces are on virtually every other street corner across Montgomery County. Stunning, glittery, colorful branches stuffed with bank employees pretending to loan money to non-existent customers. They have become nothing but a high priced marketing billboard with an ATM attached. By 2010, the number of bank branches in this country had reached almost 100,000. The vast majority are run by the usual insolvent suspects:

Wells Fargo – 6,500

J.P. Morgan – 6,000

Bank of America – 5,700

The top ten biggest banks, in addition to holding the vast majority of deposits, mortgages and credit card accounts, operate 33% of all the bank branches in the country. The very same banks that have paid out $66 billion in criminal settlement charges over the last three years and have incurred $103 billion of legal fees to defend themselves against the thousands of actions brought by victims for their criminal misdeeds, decided it was a wise decision to open new bank branches from 2007 through 2010. Only an Ivy League educated MBA could possibly think this was a good idea.

It was almost as if the CEO’s of the biggest Wall Street banks didn’t care about pissing away the $2.5 million to build the average 3,500 square foot bank branch, which would require $30 million of deposits to breakeven. This level of deposits isn’t easy to achieve when your customers are unemployed due to your bank destroying the American economy, broke due to their real household income declining by 10% over the past fourteen years, and your bank paying them .15% on their deposits. It also probably doesn’t help when you charge them $3 every time they withdraw their own money from your bank and you charge them $25 when their bank balance falls below $1,000 because they just got laid off from Merck on Christmas Eve. It is now estimated that one-third of all bank branches in the country lose money. Who can afford to run something that consistently losses money, other than our government? Wall Street bankers can when the taxpayer is footing the bill and Bernanke/Yellen subsidizes their mal-investment by lending to them at 0%, providing them $2.5 billion per day of QE play money, and paying them $5 billion per year in interest to park the excess reserves that aren’t getting leant to small businesses and consumers at their thousands of gleaming bank branches.

Hasn’t one of the thousands of highly educated MBA vice presidents occupying offices at the Too Big To Control Wall Street banks explained to Stumpf, Dimon and Monyihan that bricks and mortar are dead? A new invention called the internet has made in-person banking virtually obsolete. Why does anyone need to go into a bank branch in this electronic age? I’ve been in my credit union branch five times in the last ten years, twice for a refinance closing on my home and a couple times to get a certified check. With ATM machines, direct deposit and on-line bill paying, why would the country need 100,000 physical bank locations? I pay 90% of my bills on-line. If I need cash, I hit the ATM at Wawa, where there are no ATM fees (my credit union doesn’t charge me to get my own money). The only people who go into bank branches on a regular basis are old fogeys that don’t trust that new-fangled internet. The older generations are dying out and the millennial generation has no need for bank branches. Their iGadgets function as their bank connection. Plus, since they don’t have jobs or money, a bank account at the local bank branch of J.P. Morgan seems a bit trite.

The writing had been on the wall for a long time, but the reckless bank executives continued to build branches in an ego driven desire to outdo their equally irresponsible competitor bank executives. Now the race is on to see which banks can close the most branches. Bank consultant Jim Adkins succinctly sums up the pure idiocy of physical bank branches:

“There’s almost nobody in the branches. You could shoot water balloons all over the place and not hit anybody.”

It seems my humble state of Pennsylvania leads the pack in closing branches in the past year, with 149 abandoned and only 43 opened. Only two states in the entire country had more branch openings than closings.


After shuttering 2,267 branches in 2012, the industry is on track to closing another 2,500 in 2013. Shockingly, the leader of the Wall Street zombie apocalypse, Bank of America, led the pack in bank branch closings with 194 in the last year. Staying true to his hubristic arrogance, Jamie Dimon actually opened 62 more branches than he closed in the last year, despite his upstanding institution having to pay tens of billions in fines, settlements and pay-offs for their criminal transgressions.

There are now 93,000 bank branches remaining in this country, and one third of them don’t generate a profit. That percentage will grow as the older generations rapidly die out and are replaced by the techno-narcissists who never leave their family rooms.  Online banking already accounts for 53% of banking transactions, compared with 14% for in-branch visits. Younger bank customers increasingly prefer online and mobile banking, as advancing technology enables them to make remote deposits, shop for loans and manage accounts more efficiently from their desktops or smartphones. This trend will only accelerate in the years to come.

Banking industry profits reached a record level of $141 billion in 2012 as more vacancy signs appeared on Main Street. Now that the Wall Street cabal have syphoned every ounce of blood from their customers/victims through ATM fees, overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, credit card fees, late payment fees, and paying no interest on deposits, they are forced to focus on the $300,000 average loss per bank branch. QE and ZIRP might not last forever. Yeah right. AlixPartners, a New York consulting firm, expects the number of bank branches to drop to 80,000 over the next decade. They are wrong. They have failed to take into account the lemming like behavior of Wall Street banks. As their accounting gimmicks to generate fake profits dissipate, the increasingly desperate insolvent zombie banks will rapidly vacate their prime corner locations in droves. With approximately 30,000 locations already generating losses, the Wall Street MBAs will be closing branches quicker than you can say “mortgage fraud”. There will be less than 70,000 branches within the next five years. That means another 20,000 to 30,000 Space Available signs going up on Main Street. That means another 200,000 to 300,000 neighbors without jobs. But don’t worry about Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street bankers. They’ll be just fine. In addition to being endlessly fed by the Fed, they’ll get creative and charge their customers a new bank branch access fee of $50 for the privilege of entering one of their few remaining outlets. By now we should know how cash flows to Main Street in this corporate fascist paradise.

Do your part to starve the beast. Move your bank accounts to a local credit union. Don’t support criminals.

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CashCowEquity's picture

rite aid? 6 billion, thats in between Bernankes couch cushions...chump change

gdogus erectus's picture

Man, I feel so bad for these guys.  I think I'll go open an account at my local Chase branch.  They seem to be opening up everywhere and wiill need my support to survive.  Thank you for alterting me to this issue so that I can help.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

I live in a suburb of about 10,000.  Within 1.25 miles of our place, there are SIX banks, one more U/C.  Just two drug stores though.

I'll bet those drug stores would do much better business if they ignored that "prescription necessary" stuff...

Pure Evil's picture

Of course there's more drug stores.

The boomers are going to need easy access to their prescription drugs and overpriced crap between the drug counter and the exit door.

After picking up your drugs you'll want to make sure you keep some poor chinese kid employed on your way out the door.

MeMadMax's picture

Nobody held a gun to your head and told you to "sign this mortgage" or "open a bank account"...


Seriously, you all that bitch about fraudulant mortgages are just as much as a part of the problem as the banks/gov'ment are...


Oh yea, writer of article failed to mention any of the enableing tactics brought on by the gov'ment...


As if they had nothing to do with this... >_>

markmotive's picture

This is about the hollowing out of America. The death of the middle class.

America is now about finance and profit from finance flow to the 1%. "For Lease" signs may be everywhere but the elite class is richer than ever.

The Destruction Of America’s Middle Class (In Under Seven Minutes)

DadzMad's picture

I don't entirely disagree, but I've seen many upper middle income families make some VERY stupid decisions.  Everyone wanted to be the big swinging dick on the block and it came back to haunt them.  No, you shouldn't have had an Escalade, a Mercedes for mommy, and a 5500 ft² home with your middle management income.  And if you made it this far in life and didn't figure this out, so sorry.  For your kids sake I hope you can pull it together.  I'm not Darwinian and think he and his cousin Galton were eugenicist assholes, but for fucks sake grow up and think!  I'm tired of losing neighbors who throw good barbeques.

IdiocracyIsAlreadyHere's picture

Downvoted you for the complete misunderstanding of what "Darwinian" is.  Common fail.

Stuck on Zero's picture

You guys are missing the big opportunity: combined drug stores and bank branches.  You borrow at the bank and buy the drugs.


MachoMan's picture

I'm pretty sure walmart has that one covered...  general store + grocery store + bank + eye care + pharmacy... 

takeaction's picture

You should see the new Chase that just is in a strip mall that has very limited parking.  They open this Chase Bank that looks like a dance club rather than a bank...neon blue lights, dark glass, backlit signs......and then they take up 30% of the entire strip malls parking by putting two of those detached covered drive through ATM's.    We have banks opening up EVERYWHERE...all new construction.  Banking must be good....

lewy14's picture

I remember waiting in line at a bank branch.


bunzbunzbunz's picture

Just wait until Chase gets the balls to put Bitcoin ATMs in their branches. Apeshit withing 2 months. All they have to do is put a sign over it that says 'Alternate Diversified Investment ATM'. Flocks of sea gulls and sheep will arrive for the new opportunity. I'm desperately trying to get all the free bitcoins I can before that happens at . If anyone knows a place where you can get them faster, please let me know.

Race Car Driver's picture

Don't forget to wash your hands before you go ... they'll need to be clean for the palm scan.

DaddyO's picture

All these empty bank branches will be converted to Biometric Verification Stations when the Banksters realize we need chips in our palms to keep us safe from fraud.

It's for the chillrens afterall...


putaipan's picture

calling henry george .....

OldPhart's picture

We had a local restaurant, family owned, great food...order a salad and you'd get enough to feed a cow.  They were in business for over twenty years.

Chase Bank bought their mortgage, closed them and announced a new branch location on the property.  That was four years ago.  It's still an empty restaurant with a temporary chain link fence around it.

Chase bank took down their signs.  Opened a branch inside the Stater Brothers across the street.

It was a great restaurant.

Wahooo's picture

Sounds like that nice family was tired of busting their asses 24x7 in the restaurant business and now they can take it easy. Hard to blame them for selling.

MachoMan's picture

Sounds like as nice as it was that they couldn't or wouldn't pay their note...  Everyone can make a great restaurant if actually making a profit is out of the question.

gruden's picture

He didn't say they bought the business, he said they bought the mortgage.  Nearly every mortgage has terms where the note holder can demand immediate payment or foreclose.  That isn't generally done, but they can, and there's no recourse.  So even if that family wanted to stay in business at that location, if the bank demanded payment on the note and they couldn't come up with the full amount of the balance, the bank gets the property and they are free to do as they please.

MachoMan's picture

Yes, acceleration clauses are common as are choice of remedy clauses...  however, it first requires a default from the mortgagor...

OldPhart's picture

Chase bought the note.  The location the of the restaurant had become prime property over the years.  Where it once sat alone on a corner with not much around; over the last five years a huge shopping complex was built, along with theater, and other strip mall stuff across one street.  And, the other direction, across the highway, was another big complex.

What had been a lonely place known to locals was in the center of commerce.  Chase bought the note to put a branch on the corner.  It was announced, big signs where put up, the family shared their tale with many of us on their closing day.

Now behind it and to the side have been built newer strip malls.  But the property is still surrounded with temporary chain link.  Chase wanted to be the first branch in the nieghborhood, but they got stopped somehow.  But not before killing a thriving restaurant.

VD's picture

banks can offer any interest rate they want to savers. credit unions also do not offer interest. but yes, credit unions are a better move. in LESS THAN a 3 block radius here in Manhattan there are THREE Chase banks; that's 3 banks taking up major ultra-prime ground floor property in one of the most expensive zip codes in the world: but they don't really pay for their leases now do they...

JohnnyBriefcase's picture

Thank you. This post made things very clear.

mayhem_korner's picture

thats in between Bernankes couch cushions


When you say 'in between Bernanke's couch cushions', you're talking about furniture, right?  Otherwise, you have crossed into a place that I don't want to go...

starfcker's picture

i love jim quinn. nasty, pissed off, hyper observant and right on the money on this stuff. jim, they have to keep the zombie retailers open so nobody realizes all that's left is walmart. and common sense would tell you a low EBT area would be doing better than a high one. not in obama's america. here in ft. lauderdale we have the space available signs right down to the shuttered shell stations. but we've got EBT, baby, so we've got an endless parade of trayvons in escalades and bmw's. no job, no problem. you've got the card, and it ain't american express any longer.

Jumbotron's picture

As someone who has for the last 20 years lived in Florida or Coastal Georgia.....I've seen first hand, year over year the increases, not only of these zombie properties.....but the increase in "This space available" on billboards along I-95 from South Carolina to Miami.

Yeah.....the economy is recovering.  LOL !!

the 300000000th percent's picture

If you build it, they wont come??

bunzbunzbunz's picture

They'll come, but not the good kind like you want.

mayhem_korner's picture



PA doesn't have any good college football teams anymore, either...

Pure Evil's picture

Well, they used to have a team that liked to entertain little boys in the showers.

I guess that's why they called it Happy Valley (especially between the cheeks.)

q99x2's picture

I blocked CNBC from my browser and don't watch their interviews if they are posted on ZH. But I'll read the summary.

Lots of firewood in case the citizens of this great nation need to stay warm through the winter.

Can't wait till they convert the Wall Marts into local dumps.

JuliaS's picture

Convert? They are dumps. The only difference is that the trash has price tags.

MachoMan's picture

Close...  to be fair, the items are probably a month away from breaking through normal use...  so, it's more like a sorted, categorized, and shelved dump where the best items have been sifted through and the worst discarded (left off the shelves), unless the broken items have been returned, and then they're probably first on the shelf....  made incredibly obvious from the stickers and/or open seals.

666's picture

Jim, can you say "anger management"?


I agree with you 100%; however, if there weren't any more brick and mortar branches, then what would I rob?

max2205's picture

Sad....sad that I read this same stuff in 2008....

DavidPierre's picture

"...same stuff..."




Your level of 9-11 Ignorance is multidimensional and diverse. 

The stench your 9-11 Ignorance has settled like toxic smog over all your writing, as you chose comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge about 9-11 Truth.  

Like most other highly educated wannabe members, who constitute the ruling class of the United States of Assassination,  you purposefully ignore 9-11 Scientific Facts and 9-11 Truth because the retention and enhancement of your ego is dependent upon not understanding what you clearly have the knowledge to understand.

Quinn...I've been calling you out for years.

You are a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering people.

Hey!!! ... why refuse to get in the 9/11Fight Club ring here at ZH.

Hide in your little blog populated by other sycophants.

Without a delete button ... a terrified little PUSSY.

Live in fear, write about doom and gloom,  social frauds, economic myths, political fads, and racial fallacies.

Of science, you know little or nothing.

Terminus C's picture

You know David, I think you should leave Mr. Quinn be.  If he does not understand physics, why should you care?  You and he both know that when someone is reduced to ad hominem attacks rather than fact based arguments then that person has lost the argument.

BigSpruce's picture

Looks like someone woke up and didnt take his must be because his local Rite Aid just closed.

Big Brother's picture

I don't miss going into Wells Fargo.  They would always be right in your face trying to sell you "bill-pay" and open a "savings account" or fundamentally "borrow more money".  I pay bill ALL my bills online already, I don't want to lend them money at their proposed savings rate, and I do not want anymore debt.  However, I do appreciate they're prevalence of ATMs.

Also, WRT government pork projects that don't increase productivity or efficiency:  driving on I35, I have noticed that there are stretches of road with "guard-wire" rails and emergency/police u-turn connections being paved.  I can't think of how that improves anything:  I can't drive faster and the road cannot hold more cars.  I don't see these wires preventing a out-of-control semi from entering an oncoming lane.  So what has adding accomplished?- temporarily employing a construction worker? 

Short-sightedness abound...  This will not end well.

putaipan's picture

everytime i see the wells fargo signs they just scream out for a little banksy touch of a hammer and scythe. matches the color scheme perfectly. c'mon stencil commrades!

WillyGroper's picture

"  So what has adding accomplished?"

It's herd control when TSHTF. Might want to consider carrying some bolt cutters in your vehicle.

kchrisc's picture

Bank tellers scare the shit out of me. Let me explain.

They are paid little, have little education and quite often are of the 'Shaniqua' variety. They are then pushed to 'sell' additional 'services.' They depend on the commissions from these 'sales' and their job depends on hitting certain 'performance' targets. So it is easy to alienate one of them and have them fill out a form informing on you and your transactions to the feds. (Look it up.) And with each bank and each branch expected to show a certain level of 'compliance,' well, let's just say you may one day find your account frozen 'for investigative purposes.'

At my branch there is virtually a new teller every week or two, so I am ALWAYS on smooze-mode with them, like I live in East Germany, which I do in a sense--"Land of the free, home of the..." LOL


"Is it time for the guillotines yet?!

MachoMan's picture

Do you think someone who gets paid minimum wage is going to give a shit enough to fill out a suspicious activity report on you?  Further, if you see the same people in the bank each week you visit and actually develop a relationship with them, do you think that they're going to fill out a report?  They're going to stay late that night to report you because they can't fill it out at the time due to the 400 people in line behind you?

The bank's software flags suspicious activity...  it's automated...  [e.g. if you use multiple transactions of lower than $10k]...  and reviewed periodically by upper level management...  which is then fed higher up the regulatory chain.  Granted, they'll want a few human generated reports to show compliance/kiss the ring, but they're for show and really don't amount to a hill of beans unless a reviewer wants to make an example out of you.