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'Branch rationalization' guiding Hancock, Regions branching strategies

Bank-graphic_rgbFresh off of closing more than two dozen branches and selling a handful of others in its five-state market, Hancock Bank is back in the branching business with the opening of  a full service location in West Hattiesburg.

The 5,300-square-foot Oak Grove branch at 12 Newtowne Loop is among several branches and financial centers the $20 billion Gulfport-based Hancock has opened since a round of branch closing last year aimed at trimming branch costs by about $25 million. The closings followed the 2012 acquisition of New Orleans-based Whitney Bank, a move that gave the combined banks nearly 300 locations from Florida to Texas.

Hancock spokesman Paul Maxwell said West Hattiesburg is a thriving community that met the banking company’s “branch rationalization” criteria, especially with Lamar County’s potential for economic growth.

The bulk of Hancock’s branch closings occurred in non-legacy markets, with only one in Mississippi and two in Whitney’s Louisiana market.

“Branch banking is still very much alive,” Maxwell said.

“That is why wee feel the Oak Grove location can provide the contemporary mix of banking services the residents need.”

Hancock has 11 branches in the 601 area code. That footprint for Hancock footprint includes Hattiesburg, Petal, Picayune, Poplarville, Prentiss, Purvis and Sumrall. An additional 34 locations serve the Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties region, Maxwell said.

Like Hancock Bank, the $117 billion Regions Bank went on a recent branch closing spree, though it shut down only three Mississippi branches: One each in Biloxi, Collinsville and Terry.

Regions closed those branches in March. Last week, HOPE Federal Credit Union opened a branch in Terry in the building Regions vacated and donated to HOPE.

Arthur Ducote, Regions’ Mississippi president, said the value of branches to Regions is shown by the 95 percent of Regions’ customers who use more than one branch. “If you look at our branch channel, even though transactions are down 8 percent, 76 percent of all transactions go through the branch channel and 81 percent of our sales go through the branch channel. So that channel is still very important to us,” Ducote said in an email.

“That being said,” Ducote added, “we’re going to look at branch rationalization,which will include consolidations and investments in terms of new branches in areas where we can get the transaction volumes where we want them to be.”

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