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More or Less? Branch Debate Rages

Bank Investment Consultant
The future-of-branching debate is back on. In one corner are the industry experts who forecast a post-meltdown reduction in the number of branches. In the other corner are those who argue that banks will have to add branches to whip up deposits.

As of June 30 there were just over 99,000 U.S. bank and thrift branches, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Ken Thomas, the president of in Miami, says the number of branches in the country could top 100,000 in the next five years, particularly in high-growth markets, such as southern California, Arizona and Florida, which are fed by immigration.

Tom Brogan, a research director at TowerGroup, is projecting a net gain of about 1,200 branches in the U.S. by 2013, although they will likely be smaller, located in strip malls and super

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