FirstBank closes doors of branch in Lionshead
VAIL — Changes from an era when more of our lives are being lived online often resonate in small neighborhoods. So it is with Lionshead Village, where the only bank lobby in the resort village closed Sept. 30.
FirstBank not long ago decided it could no longer justify the considerable expense of maintaining a bank branch in Lionshead. That leaves the bank with two locations in Vail, one near the Vail Interfaith Chapel, the other in West Vail.
Paul Wible, the executive vice president for the Vail location, said the decision to close the Lionshead branch is a reflection of changes in the industry.
“With electronic banking, the Internet and mobile (technology), we have a lot less lobby traffic than we once did,” Wible said. “We don’t have the same need for physical facilities.”
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Wible said the decision about the Lionshead branch was similar to the decision to close FirstBank’s Minturn branch a few years ago.
While many customer habits have changed, some remain the same.
Tim Robbins is the owner of Lionshead Liquors, and has been for nearly 30 years. A lot of that store’s business is in cash, which means Robbins likes to take deposits to the bank on a regular basis. Closing the Lionshead FirstBank is going to force some changes in his routines.
“The Vail Village bank might as well be in Siberia, and the West Vail branch isn’t much better,” Robbins said. Losing the convenience of having a bank with a night deposit box is going to require some driving, and Robbins said there isn’t a lot of time in his work day for that.
And, while Wible said the Lionshead FirstBank didn’t have a lot of lobby traffic, Robbins said he frequently saw that lobby busy with tourists exchanging currency or getting cash advances.
Robbins said if another bank branch opened in the neighborhood, he’d consider taking his business to that company.
On the other hand, it’s probably unlikely another banking company would open a branch there.
Banking Locations Expensive
Physical banking locations are expensive, Wible said. Those locations require employees, security systems and, of course, big, heavy, expensive vaults. Throw in the cost of rent in a resort village, and it’s hard to justify the expense.
Robbins said he understands that a bank lobby is a “big expense.” He also said he sees plenty of people doing financial transactions with their phones.
“But Lionshead isn’t as convenient a place to stay” without a physical bank, he said.
Wible said much of FirstBank’s business is built on personal relationships with customers.
“From a community standpoint, it’s a tough decision,” Wible said.
But the decision’s been made.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scotts Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.