Four branches to shut down across state
By Scott Bellile
Bank Mutual Corp. announced Tuesday that Hortonville’s Bank Mutual is among four Wisconsin branches that will close next spring to cut costs.
Located at 209 S. Nash St., Hortonville’s Bank Mutual office will shut its doors in March 2016 as part of a consolidation of banks that is expected to save the company $1 million annually. The three other offices that will consolidate into nearby banks are located in Eau Claire, Cedarburg and New Holstein.
A news release issued by the bank’s corporate headquarters in Milwaukee deemphasized the layoffs and referred to the move as “operating efficiency improvements.” The bank stated a change to its defined benefit pension plan could result in “significant cost savings in 2016.”
The company anticipated but didn’t guarantee that employees at the four affected offices would be offered opportunities for comparable positions at nearby Bank Mutual locations.
Bank Mutual will continue to serve customers affected by the consolidations through its nearby locations and via electronic and mobile banking channels.
Jack Steinbrecker, director of marketing for Bank Mutual, suggested New London’s Bank Mutual branch as an option for Hortonville customers because of its proximity.
All 64 of the remaining Bank Mutual branches will service customers, he said, but other regional locations they may find useful include Appleton, Neenah, Shawano and Ashwaubenon.
Steinbrecker declined to state why Hortonville’s branch was selected to close or the number of Hortonville workers affected. Hortonville’s bank office manager referred all inquiries to Steinbrecker.
Steinbrecker said banking habits have evolved drastically in his 37 years in the industry, with more people choosing online banking today. But customers will receive letters and one-on-one phone calls in the future to make them feel welcome at the bank’s physical locations, he said.
“It’s a good opportunity to touch base with customers and let them know they’ll continue getting the same great service,” Steinbrecker said.
Lynne Mischker, clerk-treasurer for the Village of Hortonville, said the village government has deposits in Bank Mutual as well as Wolf River Community Bank and BMO Harris Bank.
She and her staff will need to look at redistributing funds among those two banks and a New London bank they do business with, she said. But for now there’s no plan in place because the Village wasn’t notified of the closure. She found out about it on a TV news broadcast.
“The news is too new,” Mischker said. “We haven’t had a chance to get anybody together [to discuss it].”
Bank Mutual expects to incur one-time costs of about $650,000 from the consolidation, composed primarily of asset disposition costs, employment severance costs and professional fees. Most of these costs will be recorded in the quarter ending Dec. 31.
Effective Dec. 31, Bank Mutual will freeze the benefits of the remaining 10 percent of its employees that are still earning benefits in its defined benefit pension plan. The benefits of all other employees had been frozen in a prior year. Management anticipated that pension-related expenses in 2016 could be an estimated $2.5 million lower than they were in 2015.
Consistent with its recent experience consolidating offices, Bank Mutual said it believes but can’t guarantee it will retain the majority of deposits and loans currently serviced through these four locations, which were $47.5 million and $6.9 million, respectively, at Sept. 30.
Back in February, Bank Mutual Corporation announced it would close seven offices in Barron, Brillion, Cornell, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Menomonie and Peshtigo. That decision was anticipated to save the company $1.5 million annually.
After these consolidations, Bank Mutual will operate 64 banking locations in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota, about 15 percent fewer offices than the 75 offices that were in business at the start of 2015.