BANK OF AMERICA PULLS PUBLIX BRANCHES

LAKELAND, Fla. - Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C., plans to close 82 in-store Publix Super Market locations over the next 24 months, citing a need to focus on its own banking locations. The supermarket chain says it will use the space itself rather than put in replacement bank branches."There are no current plans to replace the Bank of America vestibules in our stores," said Maria Brous, spokeswoman

LAKELAND, Fla. - Bank of America, Charlotte, N.C., plans to close 82 in-store Publix Super Market locations over the next 24 months, citing a need to focus on its own banking locations. The supermarket chain says it will use the space itself rather than put in replacement bank branches.

"There are no current plans to replace the Bank of America vestibules in our stores," said Maria Brous, spokeswoman for Publix here. "At this time the available space will become part of the sales floor."

Bank of America customers will still be able to use the ATMs located in Publix stores, Brous said.

Following a 10-year in-store partnership with Publix, Bank of America said it decided to close the supermarket locations to expand and upgrade its own banking centers across Florida. The bank will continue to serve Publix through a corporate banking relationship, according to Bank of America.

"Bank of America has been pulling back on in-store branches for a few years," said Bart Narter, senior analyst, Celent Communications, Boston, citing the bank's June 2005 departure from Schnuck Markets, St. Louis. U.S. Bank, Minneapolis, took over the Schnucks locations.

Bank of America's business focus is more strongly tied to its brick and mortar branches, with places for customers to sit and the ability to cross-sell other banking products, Narter said. "In-store branches are good for getting new customers, and right now Bank of America wants to sell their existing customers more things rather than find a lot of new customers."

A second factor, according to a Celent report completed by Narter in October 2005, is that some Bank of America supermarket branches may have outgrown the capacity of the relatively small in-store facilities. At the time of the report, Bank of America had 32 supermarket branches with deposits of over $30 million. "Bank of America was more focused on running in-store branches like their proprietary banking centers and less like transaction processors, so to them, it was time to pull the plug" and expand with traditional banking facilities, Narter said.

Customers who do business with Bank of America through Publix locations will be receiving notification of the change over the next few weeks and will be directed to the most convenient Bank of America banking center based on their address, Bank of America said.

"As a company passionately focused on customer service, we understand Bank of America's desire to better serve their banking customers," Brous said.

This business decision was mutually agreed upon, according to Bank of America, which is in the process of refurbishing 185 banking centers across Florida, opening 35 new banking centers, upgrading 200 ATMs and opening 40 new ATM centers. Bank of America currently has 733 banking centers and over 1,400 ATMs in the state.

"We've enjoyed our relationship with Bank of America," Brous said.