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Citizens Bank plans 12 more branches in Stop and Shops

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The Journal News
By TARA WEISS
January 21, 2006

Citizens Financial Group Inc. is expanding its presence in the northern suburbs this year with three branches in Stop & Shop grocery stores in Port Chester, Peekskill and Airmont.

Stop & Shop has planned nine stores to open in Rockland and Westchester counties in 2007 and 2008 that will include Citizens Bank branches, said Susan Murad, vice president of communications for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank opened two in New Rochelle and one in Yonkers last week.

Stop & Shop spokesman Robert Keane would not confirm the company's store plans in the area.

The idea behind the partnership is convenience people want a bank that's open more than bankers hours. Each branch will be open seven days a week and on many holidays.

The bank is also opening branches in Long Island and Manhattan, where there currently are none, taking the total in the New York metro area to 75.

"When we looked at New York state as a whole we were missing a presence or had a limited one in the lower Hudson Valley," Murad said. "These are areas that are growing."

Citizens is one of several banks pushing into the lower Hudson Valley, which is considered a lucrative market. Orangeburg-based Union State Bank is opening a branch in Rye Brook in coming months, and Commerce Bank will open locations in Bedford Hills, Hartsdale, Pelham, Scarsdale and Yorktown.

"This is an area that has performed better than the national economy for quite a while now," says Bruce Mason, chief economist at Union State Bank. "We have one of the highest per capita income numbers. We have some of the lowest unemployment numbers. People have jobs and are basically happy and are able to buy things. If they have a lot of money they need banking services."

But while these grocery supermarket banks are convenient, Mason says there's some question about their profitability. Banks make their money on loans, fees and opening up deposit accounts.

"Those kind of branches in supermarkets have yet to really prove themselves," Mason says. "People use them for check cashing and ATMs."

Citizens Bank, which purchased Charter One Bank in 2004, has made it their trademark with 125 in-store banks in Stop & Shop supermarkets in New England. The company has banks throughout grocery stores in New York including Tops, Price Chopper and Hannaford.

The bank has more than 520 in-store branches throughout New England, the mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

What are people saying about mortgages today:

Rates on 30-year mortgages edged down last week to a seven-month low. Mortgage-giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages fell to 6.3 percent, down slightly from 6.31 percent two weeks ago. It put rates at the lowest level since they were at 6.24 percent the first week of March.

Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Territorial Savings Bank and Wells Fargo Home Mortgages all cut their 30-year mortgage rates to 5.75 percent this week.

Most people think of a mortgage as a means to an end. After all, you buy a house, not a home loan. But a mortgage is much more than the path to homeownership. It is a financial instrument that must be managed, just like any other financial investment.