For Palm Beach County banks, big bucks but fewer branches

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SunTrust’s branch on Belvedere Road is scheduled to close in May 2017.

SunTrust this month notified customers that its branch at 422 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach will close in May, a move that reflects the dwindling importance of brick-and-mortar banking in an increasingly cashless society.

Here’s the trend for Palm Beach County, according to an analysis of data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.: For the year ended June 30, 2016, bank deposits reached a record $49 billion, eclipsing the record of $45 billion set the previous year. Yet the number of bank branches in the county fell to 475, the lowest level since 2004.

The trend of more deposits and fewer branches has held statewide, too. Florida had 5,286 branches with deposits totaling $541 billion last year. A decade earlier, 5,310 branches held just $363 billion in customers’ money.

Bank branches won’t disappear any time soon, analysts say, but the rise of PayPal, Apple Pay, direct deposits and smartphone banking have conspired to make visits to the teller window a quaint relic.

Consolidation has been another culprit: BankAtlantic was swallowed by BB&T, for instance, and Grand Bank and Trust became part of Seacoast National Bank. Former rivals often close overlapping branches.

What’s more, the launch of startup banks has ground to a halt since the Great Recession.

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