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Montgomery Planning Board Approves Chase Bank Branch for Red Oak Diner Site on Route 206

In an age of online banking, some may question the need for more brick-and-mortar banks. Yet, in Montgomery Township, the banking business is booming — with brand visibility and in-person customer service ranking high with the seven banks in close proximity to the Route 206-Route 518 intersection. And, the township is about to get another.

The Montgomery planning board unanimously approved a final site plan for a 3,470-square-foot Chase bank during its regular meeting on Monday, October 7. The new Chase bank will replace the Red Oak Diner, and will have two drive-throughs, each with a single ATM machine. There will also be a walk-up ATM in a vestibule.

"The days of having six to eight tellers in a branch are gone," according to the applicant's engineer Jeffrey Martell, principal of Stonefield Engineering & Design in Princeton. He told the planning board that the bank will have up to two tellers in the building and an open floor plan with offices for a branch manager, an assistant, and employees who may be there for appointments with clients.

Chase will join Wells Fargo, Santander, PNC Bank, Amboy National/1st Constitution, Bank of America, Bank of Princeton, and TD Bank. Chase Bank Marketing Manager Richard Dordas said after the meeting that Chase will break ground in late spring and plans to open their newest branch on Route 206 across from Princeton Airport in December 2020 or early 2021.

Despite the trend toward digitization, Chase recently announced a major branch expansion in 2019. Chase expects to open up to 90 new branches in new markets and hire up to 700 employees by the end of the year; and plans to open 400 new branches and hire as many as 3,000 employees in new markets over the next five years.

Meanwhile, "more than 1,700 bank branches closed nationwide between June 2016 and June 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal — the largest yearlong decline for bank branches on record."

Jennifer M. Porter, attorney for the applicant, explained: "Chase bank very much believes in a brick-and-mortar presence. We do recognize there has been a modern trend in banking. Many more people are doing much more banking online because it allows for greater convenience. However, for Chase, because it's always looking into new market areas, and new ways of growing it's customer base, and by virtue of being the largest bank in the United States, it feels it is very important for the purposes of drawing new customers to have that brick and mortar presence. So that's why you will see them coming into areas, particularly areas that they haven't been in, and having that brick-and-mortar bank."

"Whether or not customers are actually physically coming to that location," Porter added, "having that brand presence in the geographical location is very important."

Planning board chairman David Campeas asked: "Especially when you are going to have the private client services?"

"Absolutely," Porter said. "For this location, we will have that private client aspect."

Chase Private Client is a membership-type program for clients who maintain an average daily balance of $250,000 or more. The club offers Chase products and priority services, plus investing strategies and insights from J.P. Morgan.

Membership benefits may include: fewer monthly fees, such as no Chase fees on wire transfers and withdrawals at non-Chase ATMs. In addition, Chase will refund ATM fees charged by the ATM owner. Members may also travel with no foreign exchange rate adjustment fees on debit card purchases, and get access to free arts & culture passes in select U.S. cities (where available).

Bloomberg, with a large campus in Montgomery Township, recently reported that "JPMorgan Chase Leads Banks’ Flight from Poor Neighborhoods," while opening new banks in affluent areas.

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