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J.P. Morgan escalates deposit wars with expansion into the heart of Bank of America country

CNBC logo CNBC 3/13/2019 Hugh Son

As J.P. Morgan Chase builds out its web of branches across the U.S., it is launching into areas long dominated by two of its biggest rivals.

J.P. Morgan is expanding into nine new U.S. markets as it fills gaps in its network of physical locations, according to a release seen by CNBC. Bank of America or Wells Fargo are a top lender in seven of those nine cities, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data.

The new markets are Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Kansas City, Kansas; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh; Providence, Rhode Island; and St. Louis.

For instance, in Charlotte – where Bank of America has its global headquarters — the lender has 81 percent of the market and $158 billion in deposits, according to the FDIC. Wells Fargo ranks second place in Charlotte, but first in Raleigh, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina.

"There's competition in every single one of these cities, whether it's from big banks or smaller ones," said Dan Deegan, J.P. Morgan's head of market expansion.

As J.P. Morgan seeks to cover most of the U.S. population with branches by 2022, it is heightening a rivalry with the country's biggest banks. The lender announced in January 2018 that it planned to open 400 new branches over five years. Banks of all sizes – from behemoths like J.P. Morgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, to online-only offerings like Goldman Sachs' Marcus – are competing for deposits to fuel growth.

J.P. Morgan said it will open 90 new branches this year, although most of those will be in the Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Boston areas, Deegan said. With Wednesday's announcement, the bank has disclosed the majority of new markets it plans to enter, he said.

About 30 percent of branches will be in low-to-moderate income areas, and the lender is planning to work with community groups on job training efforts, the bank said.

Despite its expansion plans, J.P. Morgan has recently been winnowing the total numbers of branches as it shutters under-performing or redundant locations. The bank had 5,036 branches at the end of 2018, or about 2 percent fewer than the year earlier.

And the bank makes it clear that when it comes to brick and mortar, it has options. The firm can shutter more than 75 percent of its branches within five years, or keep them open for more than a decade, J.P. Morgan said last month in an investor presentation.

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