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More banks in SC adapt to virus by closing lobbies, trimming hours

Disaster plans fall short at 5 big banks (copy) (copy) (copy)

Wells Fargo & Co. is the latest bank in South Carolina to temporarily close branches and limit walk-in services. File/AP

Banks throughout South Carolina continue to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic, with some shutting branches or lobbies and directing customers to their drive-thru lanes and online platforms.

Wells Fargo & Co., the largest lender operating in the state based on deposits, is the latest to make changes.

The San Francisco-based financial services giant announced Tuesday that it is temporarily closing 17 South Carolina branches amid the health crisis, including one each in Summerville and North Charleston.

"Many branches are offering drive-up services with lobbies open for appointments only," Wells Fargo said in a statement.

The company also is trimming its standard operating hours at branches nationwide to 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Offices that open on Saturday will operate from 9 a.m.-noon.

Like most banks, Wells Fargo is encouraging customers to its use online and mobile banking options to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Financial institutions in South Carolina have been limited personal interactions between their front-line employees and customers for the past week.

Pinnacle Financial Partners, which has about a dozen offices throughout the Charleston region and 21 in South Carolina, restricted access to its entire five-state brick-and-mortar footprint until further notice.

Appointments for "urgent in-person needs can be accommodated," the Nashville-based bank said, and some retail locations without drive-thru service have been temporarily closed. In some cases, employee-monitored drop boxes are available for deposits.

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Pinnacle CEO Terry Turner called the adjustment "an extraordinary step" brought on by "an extraordinary situation.”

β€œThe health and safety of our clients and associates is our No. 1 priority," Turner said in a statement. "We are taking this step in an effort to protect them. This is a challenging time, and we are doing everything in our power to play our part.”

The bank is allowing employees to work from home if feasible while taking other protective measures, such as additional daily cleaning services.

Similarly, South Carolina Federal Credit Union closed off the walk-in lobbies at all of its financial centers as of Thursday. Drive-thru lanes are offering expanded services and are open during normal business hours.

Like Pinnacle, the North Charleston-based nonprofit lender will set up in-person appointments for transactions that are too complex to complete at a drive-thru or ATM.

First Citizens has adopted the same strategy at its Charleston-area branches, according to its website. So have Synovus, United Community Bank and TD Bank, the latter of which has temporarily shuttered about 15 percent of its retail network.

Charlotte-based Bank of America hasn't closed branches as of Tuesday but it cut its weekday hours to 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting this week.

"The shorter hours will provide us more time for thorough cleaning," spokesman Bill Halldin said.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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