Terre Haute, Indiana-based First Financial Bank will close roughly 10% of its locations over the next six months, the bank said Monday.
First Financial expects the consolidations — covering seven of the bank’s 72 branches — will be complete by the first quarter of 2023 and save the $16 billion-asset institution $1.5 million per year in operating costs.
The bank’s chairman, Norman Lowery, chalked up the move to a shift in customer behavior.
“Our customers are rapidly adopting our online banking platforms, which provides us with an opportunity to consolidate these branches into other nearby locations while maintaining the high level of service our customers expect,” he said in a statement.
The closures are somewhat a microcosm for a nationwide banking trend. Banks across the country shuttered a record 2,927 branches in 2021, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence report published in January. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift toward digital banking, as low interest rates (at the time) put additional strain on many banks.
A 2021 study by Self Financial, a fintech serving the underbanked population, predicted that bank branches could become extinct by 2034 if closures continue to accelerate at the rate they have since 2000.
The scale of First Financial’s downsizing would hardly be unprecedented — even for a bank of its size.
The bank said in September 2021 that it planned to close 10 branches, out of its previous 81-location footprint, citing customers’ preference for online banking.
That announcement came roughly a month after First Financial said it would acquire Kentucky-based Hancock Bank.
First Financial said it expects to take on $1.5 million in pretax charges this quarter and in the first quarter of 2023.
U.S. banks have closed 3,521 branches and opened 1,035 since October 2021, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.