Bank of the West closing Hot Springs branch, effective Dec. 3

By Marcus Heerdt

HOT SPRINGS – Bank of the West is closing its Hot Springs location effective Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Bank of the West is a financial services company with headquarters in San Francisco and is a subsidiary of BNP Paribas, an international banking group based in France.

According to www.usbanklocations.com, Bank of the West has been in operation in Hot Springs since 2004 when it bought out Community First National Bank.

Bank of the West notified its local customers of the Hot Springs closure in a letter sent out in early September.

The letter, dated Sept. 1, 2021, stated: “At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 3, 2021, we are permanently closing our Hot Springs branch located at 137 South Chicago Street in Hot Springs, but rest assured there are still many other ways we can meet your banking needs.”

Bank of the West’s letter goes on to explain how Hot Springs customers can visit the Platte, S.D., branch to “meet your banking needs.” Yet Platte is 265 miles east of Hot Springs on US Hwy 18. The letter then provides several online and mobile options for its customers.

A quick search with the “Find a Branch” tool on Bank of the West’s website shows that the bank’s nearest branches to Hot Springs are in Chadron, Gordon, and Hemingford, Neb., and Lusk, Wyo.

When contacted, Bank of the West’s local employees said that they were unable to comment on the closure.

The bank’s Media Relations department in San Francisco refused to answer questions but did provide a statement.

“In order to most effectively serve our customers, we review and optimize our branch network on an ongoing basis,” said Don Barnes, Executive Vice President, Head of Retail Banking at Bank of the West. “We have decided to close the Hot Springs branch on December 3, 2021, and customers have been notified. We want to make this transition as easy as possible for our customers and encourage them to reach out to us with any questions.”

Barnes’ statement was provided to the newspaper via Highwire Public Relations, who, according to their website, describes their business as “a modern communications agency designed for disruptive companies.” Highwire has offices in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and Boston.

Bank of the West’s closure in Hot Springs reflects a larger trend of banks closing branches all across the United States.

According to AAA, the “number of brick-and-mortar [bank] locations has dropped every year since 2012.” In 2020 alone, a total of 3,324 bank branches closed in the U.S., a new record (this figure does not include temporary bank closures due to COVID). AAA attributes branch closures to the increased use of online banking as well as the high cost of operating a bank branch with a physical location, especially in rural areas.

Olivia Mears, Executive Director of the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, does not enjoy seeing businesses leave town.

“Bank of the West were chamber members for many years and it is such a pity to see them leave after being an important part of the community for so long,” Mears said. “Whereas it is always disheartening when a business leaves town, we must be glad that we get to welcome new businesses to town as well.”

Bank of the West’s closure leaves Hot Springs with three financial institutions: Black Hills Federal Credit Union, First Interstate Bank, and Wells Fargo.

Based on questions posted on social media and calls to this newspaper, the Fall River County Herald-Star inquired about the status of the Hot Springs’ Wells Fargo due to the bank’s recent lack of open business hours.

When contacted about the future of the Wells Fargo branch in Hot Springs, a one-sentence reply was received from the bank’s Corporate Communications department: “Branches continue to play an important role in the way we serve our customers, beyond this we don’t have anything more to share for your story.”

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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