First Commonwealth ponders retail branch changes

A First Commonwealth Bank branch along Route 15 was one of two in the Lewisburg area acquired from Santander Bank in 2019.

INDIANA — First Commonwealth Bank indicated in its second quarter earnings report that reductions in bank locations could be on the horizon.

The report, issued Tuesday, July 28 by First Commonwealth Financial Corporation, said the current operating environment and evolving customer preferences could lead to a 20% reduction in locations before the end of the year. The need to grow the business, maintain adequate capital, respect interest rate trends and cut operating expenses were noted.

“When a decision like this is made, there are a multitude of factors that are taken into consideration,” said Jonathan A. Longwill, vice president of communications and media relations. “It is not just simply is one office outperforming another.”

Longwill said leasing costs versus owning a facility and the proximity of one office to another could also factor into their decisions.

“I think across the board you are seeing a time of banks making decisions when it comes to their retail branch network,” he added. “I do think it is safe to say some of these decisions probably would be made within the next two or three years. However, with the COVID-19 and some of the restrictions put in place earlier in the year expanded our opportunity to showcase our digital technology to our customers.”

Clients have responded to digital options for banking, Longwill said. As acceptance of online services has grown, he said decisions have been made more quickly than had there not been a pandemic.

Longwill said decisions were still being finalized and a list of branches to be closed would likely be released in the week ahead.

First Commonwealth reported 24 cent per share earnings in the second quarter on net income of $23.8 million. The figure was 19 cents per share higher than for the first quarter, when net income of of $4.7 million was reported.

The Indiana County-based bank has 148 offices in Pennsylvania and Ohio. They include two branches in the Lewisburg area and one in Milton. It was acquired in 2019 from Santander Bank.

Staff writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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