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First M&F closing 5 branches and selling one more

In closing five branches and selling another, Merchants and Farmers Bank CEO & Chairman Hugh Potts Jr. says the Kosciusko-based First M&F Corp. is adjusting to a banking market in which fewer customers rely on brick and mortar locations.

But he insists the move that involves eliminating slightly more than 50 jobs is an adjustment and not a conceding of market share to competitors. “We’re not retreating from any markets,” he said of plans announced last week to shut down a Jackson branch, the branch on U.S. 51 in Ridgeland, the Oxford West branch and the Tupelo Northside branch.

A closure will also occur in Wilsonville, Ala. M&F is selling its Niceville, Fla., branch to First Florida Bank in Destin.

Closing the branches, selling the Niceville location and cutting 11 percent of the banking company’s workforce will save M&F about $4 million annually, according to the bank, which will be left with 38 branches.

The banking company reported assets of $1.6 billion and 510 employees at the end of the second quarter.

M&F grew its total deposits from $1.3 billion in the second quarter of 2010 to $1.4 billion in this year’s second quarter, according to filings with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. In the same period, non-current loans and leases declined from $36.9 million to $33.5 million, while loan loss allowances rose from $18.3 million to $18.8 million.

In a statement in which M&F dubbed the retrenchment “Project McKinley,” Potts said the intent is to focus on fewer locations “to achieve higher levels of performance and efficiency.”

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