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Community Bank Consolidation Attributed to Shift to Online Banking

Two local Community Bank office branches will be consolidated into others some distance away in a move which its president and CEO attributed to the changing landscape of the banking industry.

John Montgomery said Thursday that the decision to consolidate the Bellaire branch into the Moundsville branch and the Wellsburg branch into the Warwood branch was part of a streamlining process, as part of a move to increase virtual banking in the face of reduced demand for brick-and-mortar locations.

The consolidation, which includes a total of six locations, is expected to be completed by the end of June.

“The economic situation during the pandemic changed consumer behavior,” Montgomery said. “Moving away from bricks and mortar, consumers desire better mobile and digital access to their banking.

“When we talk about it being agile, the investments and those tools would enable someone to do all they would want to do — they can come into a branch, if they’d like, or they could use mobile and digital,” he added. “We want to invest in those technologies so we’ve got good solutions on the tech side, if that’s what someone wants to do.”

Montgomery said the six branches, including the Bellaire and Wellsburg locations, were underperforming, which marked them for consolidation.

“We have to get efficient in order to do that, and unfortunately those branches just weren’t being used like they were in the past,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate reality that we’re trying to pivot to.”

Montgomery said he was aware of concerns that eliminating some local branches would inconvenience customers who would need to drive across the Ohio River or down W.Va. 2 for miles for their banking needs, but hoped there would be a small impact.

“We’re hopeful that the number of clients that are impacted are minimal, we hope that with digital products, they can use that rather than having to go to a branch, if they so choose,” he said.

Montgomery said the consolidation process would likely affect approximately 20 jobs. However, he said the company was looking to place those employees at new positions to minimize the effect on personnel.

“We’re looking at how we can hold positions open, how we can make room for anyone that might be impacted,” he said. “We will work very hard, that anyone impacted would be encouraged to take the first shot at an open position, and we want to retain as many people as we can within our organization. These are very difficult times, we’re committed to the market, we’re going to be opportunistic in the market, but we need to adapt to the changing environment, and that’s what we’re doing.”

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