West Shore Bank to consolidate Fountain, Walkerville branches.

April 1, 2015
Walkerville branch.

Walkerville branch.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — In a day and age of living in a mobile and technologically advanced society, the banking industry has seen some major changes. Recent studies have shown that banking customers are using branches 45% less in recent years than they used to while the percentage of adults in the United States who bank via mobile phones and computers is on the rise.

These were the main reasons why West Shore Bank has made the decision to consolidate its Fountain and Walkerville branches into other branches.

“Over the last five years, our bank has seen a reduction in transactions at the branch level,” said Raymond Biggs, president and CEO of West Shore Bank. “Customers are using telephone, online and mobile channels with greater frequency, and coming to the bank less often for routine needs. Trips to the branch are more likely to be for the purpose of speaking with a banking advisor for more involved financial decision making.”

Fountain branch.

Fountain branch.

The Walkerville and Fountain branches will close on June 12 and the employees in those branches will be reassigned to other West Shore Bank locations.

“The consolidation allows us to more effectively utilize our resources to meet our customers’ needs,” Biggs said. “In Fountain and Walkerville we were faced with older buildings where upgrading the facilities would have proved difficult. These challenges combined with the reduction in frequency of customer branch visits reinforced the decision to consolidate these locations.”

The consolidation of the two branches is consistent with a trend that is happening across the country. Huntington Bank recently closed branches in Pentwater and Bear Lake while PNC closed its downtown Ludington branch.

In the United States it is expected that there will be at least 20% fewer branches by 2020, and that this trend will continue to accelerate, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Banks of all sizes are seeing less foot traffic due to the evolution in customers’ ever-changing banking behaviors; however, as customers do more of their banking online and via mobile devices, deposits overall continue to grow according to the FDIC’s annual Summary of Deposits. 

Biggs said West Shore Bank is committed to serving the local area. It and Shelby State Bank are the only remaining banks controlled by local shareholders. Last year Northwestern Bank, which was based in Traverse City, was acquired by Chemical Bank.

“As a community bank, we rely on our ability to connect closely with our customers and community,” Biggs said. “Building relationships, providing advice – that’s always what we’re going to do. We have to be relevant, and that means listening to our customers and adapting to provide the service and convenience the way they want it.”

West Shore Bank has experienced a 25% growth in the past 10 years, Biggs said, adding the bank has responded to customer demands for convenience by investing heavily in technology and infrastructure.

“We expanded our Scottville location in 2014 to better serve customers,” Biggs said. “This renovation created space for our newly formed customer service department and added jobs.”

Biggs said the new department will provide service to customers across the various means of banking, including online, mobile and telephone. In the past year, the bank has added several online and mobile tools to its offering to make banking on-the-go even more accessible to its customers. Biggs said more updates on the horizon, with an estimated $4 million dollars committed to investment in technology over the next seven to eight years.

“As the community continues to look to banks for trustworthy advice, West Shore Bank is also focusing on investment in the training of employees so they are better able to assist customers in an advisory capacity,” Biggs said.