Chase Bank branch expansion in California continues as BofA scales back

Chase Bank is pressing ahead with an expansion of its California branch network even as Bank of America Corp. plans to close some less profitable offices.

The JPMorgan Chase & Co. unit said it would open about 100 branches this year in California, giving it more than 900 branches in the state by the end of the year. Southern California is to get about 65 of the new offices, and 20 will go to Northern California and 15 to Central California, the company said.

Chase, which acquired most of its California branches when it took over Washington Mutual Inc. in 2008, said last year that it planned to add "hundreds more" locations in the Golden State.

In a statement Monday announcing the plan for new branches this year, Pablo Sanchez, head of Chase's Western branch network, said California remained a "high-priority growth market" for the New York bank.

The growth contrasts with Bank of America's contraction of its California branch network.

BofA consumer banking executive Joe Price told an investor conference last month that the Charlotte, N.C., bank would close nearly 10% of its branches.

Asked about Chase's expansion, Price said BofA already had plenty of offices "in the places that we really should be."

BofA has 978 offices in the state, a spokeswoman said. The bank did not disclose how many of those branches would be closed.

Wells Fargo & Co.'s takeover of Wachovia Corp. gave it the most branches in California. The San Francisco bank has 1,043 locations in the state and sees some opportunity to open a few more in Southern California, said Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo's regional president for California.

Bank of America closed 43 branches nationwide in the first quarter of this year and has filed notices to close 68 more, the Charlotte Observer reported Saturday. Those 111 closings, which are spread across 26 states, include 16 in Michigan, 10 in New Jersey, eight in California and seven each in New York and Texas.

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