Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:56AM - 676 Views

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Bucking the national trend in banking, First Keystone Community Bank is opening new branches in Dallas and Shickshinny.

In recent years the trend in U.S. banking has been to reduce the number of branches while steering customers to online and mobile services.

According to Matthew Prosseda, president and chief executive officer of the Berwick-based First Keystone Community Bank, moves into these two areas are vital to both the community and company.

We are choosing to expand in Shickshinny because they lost their bank Wells Fargo, said Prosseda. It flooded and that bank was forced to close.

Prosseda said First Keystone Community Bank has numerous customers who use their branch services, but the national movement from in-person to tech-based banking is hard to ignore.

Online banking is more comfortable, said John Mellon, associate professor of business at Misericordia University in Dallas Township. Years ago it was not common, but today everyone lives on a computer, iPad or cell phone.

Internet banking

A 2011 American Bankers Association survey showed 62 percent of Americans named the Internet as the most popular method to manage finances, up from 36 percent in 2010. Online banking increased in the past two years, but the number of people who use branches has fallen from 25 percent to 20 percent.

While technology is a major factor of why banks are closing locations nationwide, online and mobile banking are only a minor part of the overall picture.

There is a great move to make banks more efficient, said Anthony Liuzzo, a professor of finance and economics at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre. It's been happening for 20-30 years and I don't see an end to this.

First Keystone Community Bank does have users who actively use their online and mobile banking services, according to bank officials.

In the past month, 28 percent of their customers used Internet banking and 5 percent used mobile banking.

However, online banking hasn't discouraged Prosseda, who said bank expansion will continue.

Our strategic plan calls for adding a branch every 18 months, said Prosseda. We see ourselves and bank expanding over many years in the Wyoming Valley market.

Building loyalty

Mellon also believes the bank's expansion into the area can be successful, especially if it creates a sense of loyalty to customers.

If they project themselves as user and public friendly, people will go and switch banks, said Mellon.

Mellon said he doesn't believe First Keystone Community Bank should be too concerned about the risk of opening new branches because in-person banking offers the one thing that online banking lacks: the human connection and face-to-face interaction.

Cisco's IBSG Omnichannel Banking Study reported 26 percent of consumers would take a hike if ‘banks eliminated personal attention'…65 percent say they would favor more bank branches that offer a wider range of services.

Additionally, residents already seem excited about using the new bank in Shickshinny, which will be located in the former Hasay Chevrolet location on U.S. Route 11.

So far, First Keystone Community Bank has bought the land and tore down the existing building. Construction for the new building is scheduled to begin in the next few months.

We have had a strong reaction from Shickshinny, said Prosseda of that Susquehanna River town's residents who have already gone to the Berwick branch to open accounts. Their bank got wiped out and we moved quickly to secure the property.

Beverly Moore, the mayor of Shickshinny, also said residents are excited about having a full-service bank in the area.

It gives us hope because they are willing to take a chance on us, said Moore. Because of that we are welcoming them with open arms. We can't wait.

The Dallas branch, which is expected to open in the next few months, will be located on Memorial Highway. They bought the building from Bank of America. Prosseda said it offers a promising customer base that still relies on in-person banking services.

It's a good community to be involved in, Prosseda said about the Dallas area. One of the reasons that we like Dallas is because of the number of deposits.

Regardless of the potential risk, expansion for First Keystone Community Bank gives them an enormous opportunity to break into the market, Liuzzo said.

It is a possibility they could see an opening to get themselves known in part of the area, said Liuzzo. It's a direct way to increase store front and increase the customer base.

Other branches

First Keystone Community Bank also has locations in the following areas:

• Three Berwick locations

• Salem Township

• Nescopeck

• Mifflinville

• Scott Township

• Danville

• Hanover Township

• Kingston

• Mountain Top

• Plymouth, Stroudsburg

• Mountainhome

• Swiftwater

• Brodheadsville

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