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Bank of America to close Clarksville branch / July 27, 2016

Bank of America is closing its Clarksville branch and ATM effective Nov. 1, bringing an end to the banking giant’s physical presence in Mecklenburg County.

Bank of America notified customers of the impending shutdown in a letter this week. “While your account will stay the same, we’re sorry for the inconvenience this closing causes,” the letter read in part. It did not give Bank of America’s reasons for shutting the Clarksville branch.

Matthew Daily, a company spokesman based in Atlanta, said a decline in transactions is the main reason for closing a financial center, although he could not say if there has been either a decline in in-person transactions at the Clarksville branch. The news that Bank of America will exit Clarksville comes a month after the company announced it would shutter its downtown South Boston banking location in October. At that time, Daily said local customers would be encouraged to stay with Bank of America, and conduct financial transactions via ATMs or through online options such as the Bank of America smartphone app.

“We are constantly looking at our financial centers and ATM network to fit customer needs,” said Daily of the Clarksville closing.

The letter mailed this week to bank customers lists several ways people can transact business, including online and mobile banking, direct deposit, banking by phone or at another location. The two locations listed in the letter are in Lynchburg and Henderson, N.C.

There is also a Bank of America branch in Lawrenceville, but that location is not referenced in the letter. While Daily said no plans have been announced to shutter that facility, he did not explain — despite being asked — why the Lawrenceville branch was not listed as an alternate banking site for Clarksville customers.

The nation’s second-largest bank, Bank of America has spent the past five years eliminating hundreds of branches and the jobs that go with them. Banking experts have speculated that the move is a way for Bank of America to shoulder legal costs stemming from lawsuits related to lending practices prior to the financial crisis. However, Daily said the closures are part of an overall plan to capitalize on the shift to mobile banking.

According a company fact sheet, 33 million customers access their Bank of America accounts via mobile devices, on-line banking or both. Of those, at least 20 million customers actively use the bank’s mobile banking platform.

Daily acknowledged there is always the risk that a physical branch closing will alienate less tech-savvy customers, including elderly persons who may be accustomed to in-person banking. Daily said however, the assumption that seniors prefer to bank at a facility rather than go online is overblown.

For employees currently working at the Clarksville branch, Daily said, “We always work to minimize the impact a move like this has on our employees. We try to find other positions within the company, if possible.” There are currently five people employed at the Virginia Avenue location.

Another major question is what will happen to the building. Retired branch manager Mike Sizemore, who worked at the Clarksville location for over 27 years, said he was not surprised by news of the closure, but he is disappointed that downtown would have another vacant storefront once the bank is closed. Sizemore, a member of Town Council, said he hoped a new business would fill the site as soon as possible.

Daily said Bank of America, as the owner of the building plans, to market the site once it is vacant.

Sizemore could not say exactly when the Bank of America building was constructed. There have been five different banking institutions at that site over the years: Bank of Clarksville, Virginia Southern Bank, Sovran Bank, NationsBank and Bank of America.

With Bank of America gone, Clarksville is left with two community banks, Benchmark Community Bank and Carter Bank and Trust, and one national bank, Wells Fargo. Elsewhere in Mecklenburg County, another national bank, First Citizens, operates offices in Chase City, Boydton and South Hill, and BB&T has a location in South Hill. A regional bank, South Hill-based CCB, operates a number of financial centers in the county and surrounding area. Yet another company, Citizens Bank & Trust, has a branch in South Hill.

Customers with questions about the Clarksville closing are invited to call Bank of America officials before Nov. 1, at 1-800-432-1000.

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