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Wells Fargo Weighs Branch Closings

Wells Fargo may begin to shutter outlets in an effort to cut costs, according to the bank’s chief financial officer. Wells Fargo could shut branches in close proximity to each other, or move some wealth-management or mortgage employees into those offices, CFO Timothy Sloan said today at a New York investor conference.

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“There are obviously some regulatory issues that you need to be mindful of when you combine a securities business and a deposit-taking business,” Sloan told analysts. “But from time to time, we are clearly going to look at opportunities to consolidate.”

Now that Wells Fargo has completed converting the former Wachovia Corp. network to its own brand name, the bank has 6,239 retail branches, 1,375 retail brokerage offices, and 725 mortgage locations, giving it a larger network of outlets than any other bank in the country, including Bank of America .

Wells Fargo now hopes to consolidate its operations to make them more efficient without reducing their retail presence, said spokesman Ancel Martinez. The lender closed 638 branches in 2010 when it decided to shutter its consumer-finance unit, Wells Fargo Financial. At the time of that decision, the bank said it had 6,600 Wachovia and Wells Fargo branches, and 2,200 mortgage offices, with a total staff of 264,000.

Wells Fargo isn’t alone in trying to consolidate. Bank of America closed 154 branches in 2011, and told the Federal Reserve last June that it could reduce branches to bolster finances in an emergency. However, JPMorgan is expanding its network just as its competitors are being forced to cut back. The company said it may open 900 “potential” new branch buildings this year alone, concentrated in California, Florida, and Atlanta. At the end of 2011, the bank had 240 more branches in the U.S. than in 2010.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Knapp at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

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