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Bloomberg Analysis: Bank Branch Closures Hit Poor Areas The Hardest
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:30 AM

Remember when there was a bank on every corner? In the decade preceding the financial meltdown in late 2008, a number of banks embarked on flurry of building to expand their presence in communities across the nation. The number of bank branches peaked at 99,540 in 2009, a 20 increase from the number of branches in 1998.

But according to a Bloomberg analysis, banks that opened at least 15,000 branches between 1998 and 2008 have been retreating quickly from that aggressive expansion. And nowhere is that more evident than in lower-income neighborhoods.

Of the 1,826 branches closed since late 2008, a whopping 93 percent of them were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In a study released Tuesday, Bloomberg estimates the branch total could fall by
as much as 40 percent in the next decade.

What does that mean? It means that the same populations targeted by predatory lenders are losing access to mainstream financial institutions and mainstream checking and savings accounts.

It also means that credit unions have an unprecedented opportunity to reach beyond their comfort zone to serve the under-served. The prospect can seem overwhelming, but there is help available. REAL Solutions®  is a statewide partnership between the Texas Credit Union League and credit unions committed to helping real Texans build financially strong, self-supporting families and communities by offering innovative services and programs that:

  • Offer affordable alternatives to high-cost financial products and services.
  • Reduce dependency on predatory financial providers.
  • Increase financial literacy.
  • Improve personal financial management.
  • Encourage saving and wealth-building.
  • Build creditworthiness.
  • Provide an avenue to personal financial stability.
  • Improve the financial and economic well-being of Texan communities.

More than 80 credit unions around the state are participating in REAL Solutions; your credit union should too. Contact Paula Upchurch at pupchurch@tcul.coop or (800) 442-5762, Ext. 6822 to explore ways your credit union can begin to demonstrate the “people helping people” philosophy to those most in need.