Big banks have continued to close offices in New Jersey and nationwide bringing the number of branches down for the fourth straight year.

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"The number of branches is down 105 offices or three percent of the total," said John McWeeney, President and CEO of the New Jersey Bankers Association. "But, the decline comes on the heels of a dramatic increase from 2000 to 2008 when the number of branches increased by 371 or twelve percent. So, yes, it's down in the past four years, but the decline followed a period of dramatic growth and we're still well above where we were in 2000."

Why the decline?

"The major reason is changing customer preferences. The American Bankers Association does a survey every year and the last one conducted in 2011 found that 62 percent of bank customers named online banking as their preferred method of banking. That was up from just 36 percent the year before," said McWeeney. "In that same survey, only 20 percent of bankers said that their preferred method of banking was to go into a branch to conduct their business."

Mobile banking is also growing and is expected to increase in popularity.

"In that same survey, which is over a year old, only three percent of customers said they preferred mobile banking. I am very confident that the next time the survey is done, mobile banking will explode," said McWeeney. "The ability to do your banking on a mobile phone has expanded dramatically."

"While more and more transaction activity will be pulled out of the branches, I don't believe they will close down altogether," said McWeeney. "The offices are still a central part of the banking and customer relationship. Some people still want to open accounts or apply for loans in their local branches. Small business owners often prefer being face to face with people. Over time, I think we will see more offices closed down as banks become more efficient, but the branches won't all disappear."