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Wells Fargo to close Chase City branch May 5 / February 17, 2021

A binge of bank branch closings by Wells Fargo has reached Southside Virginia. It was announced Friday that Wells Fargo would be closing its branch in Chase City effective May 5.

Josh Dunn, a corporate spokesperson for Wells Fargo & Company, confirmed the news saying, “Wells Fargo will be closing the Chase City branch on May 5, although we will continue to operate our ATM at the location until we determine a new location for it. Until then, our customers can use the branch and bank with us as they always have.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the bank lobby has been closed to the public with only the drive-thru lanes currently open.

Dunn said he did not know what plans, if any, Wells Fargo has for offering employees at the Chase City branch positions at any of the other locations. He did say there are no current plans to close either the Clarksville or the South Boston branches.

Wells Fargo also has branch locations at 127 N. Main Street, Farmville, 20 Franklin Street, Petersburg and in Roxboro, Durham, Raleigh and Wake Forest, N.C.

Dunn said that after the Chase City bank closes, customers who need to visit an area bank branch can go to Clarksville at 215 Virginia Avenue, or South Boston at 3300 Halifax Road.

“This is not an easy decision or one that we take lightly,” Dunn said.

The decision to close the Chase City location was based on “customer use, market factors, economic trends and competitor actions” and, according to Dunn, the fact that more customers banking online. He did not say if there has been a decline in in-person transactions at the Chase City branch.

Chase City Town Manager Dusty Forbes said he first heard the news on Thursday but was given no specific details about the closure from bank officials. He was already looking into future uses for the building once it is vacated in May.

Wells Fargo first announced plans to close up to 900 branches in 2018. The closures were to take place between 2018 and 2022.

Wells Fargo is not the first national bank to pull out of the area. Bank of America ended its physical presence in Mecklenburg County in 2016 with the closure of its Clarksville facility.

One local banker who asked to remain anonymous said that Wells Fargo’s departure would have little to no impact on the lending business in this area since most of Wells Fargo’s local mortgage business was handled by loan officers working from one of the company’s managerial offices such as the one in Raleigh, N.C.

In the banker’s view, the Chase City branch did not have a robust lending program.

He predicted the big winner, as far as accounts, would be the local banks with branch offices in Chase City — Benchmark Community Bank, First Citizens Bank, and Carter Bank & Trust. “People want to bank with people, and they want convenience,” he said.

Wells Fargo’s decision to close the Chase City branch is part of a national trend among large lenders that hits rural counties the hardest, especially those with older, poorer and less educated populations, according to a 2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Fed report found that “while in-person banking has become less relevant with the rise of online and mobile banking, that’s not the case for everyone.” The reasons given were that:

» Internet and cell service, particularly in rural areas are not sufficient, reliable, or affordable enough to allow for a substitution to online banking, and

» the expertise of local bankers who understand homeownership in rural communities is irreplaceable.

Much of the information from that report was gathered at listening sessions hosted by Federal Reserve Banks across the country between July 2018 and January 2019. The consumers, small business owners, and local government officials who participated in the sessions told fed officials that while they have found local or technological substitutes for many, but not all services, the alternatives are generally more costly and less convenient.

Other data and research presented in the report showed that despite an increase in the use of online banking services that branch banks continued to be important for certain services, including resolving problems, submitting loan applications, and for deposits and withdrawals, and that the adoption of digital banking services has been more gradual among consumers who are older, have lower incomes or fewer years of formal education, or who live in rural areas.

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