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BNY Mellon move part of disturbing trend

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By Dick Scaife
Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Bank of New York Mellon will close its Ligonier wealth-management branch in November. It will have just one such office in Pittsburgh, down from the nine it operated here several years ago.

BNY Mellon insists most customers now use the telephone or the Internet to do their banking.

What this really reflects, however, is not a change in customer preferences but a disturbing trend in American banking.

Back when Mellon was one of the world's premier banking names, I sat on its board of directors. In those days, Mellon was a presence in nearly every neighborhood and community of our region.

In fact, community was both the point of its operations and a matter of corporate pride.

Mellon's directors, loan officers, tellers and other employees knew their communities and their customers. They knew what both needed to grow and to prosper — and often put up the money, vision or influence to get those things done.

Mellon financed the industrial revolution that transformed Pittsburgh and created many of its best-known companies — Gulf Oil, U.S. Steel, Alcoa and others that provided jobs and better lives for hundreds of thousands of people.

Yet, in the past decade, Mellon has retreated from commercial banking. It has concentrated instead on wealth management — a lucrative pursuit for it, but one that does little to serve our community in the manner it once did.

Not every financial institution, enlarged by mergers and acquisitions, abandons its customers and communities; Pittsburgh-based PNC, for example, strives to remain an essential part of the communities into which it has expanded.

But far too many don't do that. Their loyalty and financial interests are no longer tied to a community, a region, or even our nation. Instead, they are concerned with a few directors or key investors — and with profit, first and foremost.

Federal policies of recent decades have encouraged this and ultimately led to our latest financial collapse.

This misguided transition may be beneficial to a few corporate-headquarters cities and a few CEOs.

But it is a tragic loss for Americans in many midsized cities and small towns who relied on local banks for financial strength and community progress.

Dick Scaife is owner of Trib Total Media.

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