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PNC Bank Devises a Bold Arrival

By Terence O'Hara
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 13, 2005; Page E01

PNC Bank, hoping to make a splash among consumers in the increasingly competitive Washington market when it takes over Riggs Bank in May, said yesterday it plans to significantly expand its night and weekend hours, waive many ATM fees and immediately begin building new branches.

The Pittsburgh-based bank will take over Riggs's 51 branches on May 13 when PNC Financial Services Group Inc. completes its merger with Riggs National Corp.

Riggs has promoted expanded hours and PNC plans more of the same. (Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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Special Report: Riggs Bank
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Riggs National Corp.
For a quick overview of Riggs Bank's legal problems, the status of various investigations and more, check out a Riggs primer compiled by washingtonpost.com.

PNC will enter the Washington market as the region's retail banking landscape undergoes considerable change, with new competitive pressures that will likely benefit bank consumers.

Commerce Bank, a New Jersey bank that has built a deposit-gathering juggernaut in New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York, plans to ultimately open 200 new branches in the region. First Horizon National Corp. of Tennessee has already opened new branches in Northern Virginia. Like Commerce, it promotes longer branch hours and offers low or no fees for customers using non-First Horizon ATMs.

In addition, Bank of America is revamping many of its branches and offering extended night and weekend hours for customers who can't get there during the workday.

Joe Rockey, PNC's executive vice president for branch distribution, said the changes to Riggs's branch network and consumer offerings are driven by "the ease and convenience model. This is critical inside the D.C. marketplace."

Rockey said all of PNC's branches will be open until at least 6 p.m., with many suburban branches open until 7 p.m. during the week. Most will have weekend hours as well, with the most heavily trafficked branches open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Typically, bank customers who use an ATM of another bank are charged a fee both by their own bank and by the bank that owns the ATM. Rockey said Washington's PNC customers can avoid having to pay any ATM fees as long as they have an account with direct deposits, online bill paying, or minimum loan and deposit balances.

Washington is the only market where PNC is offering the free ATM service, Rockey said, mostly because in PNC's other markets -- most of them in Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania -- it has many more of its own ATMs.

PNC will open three new branches in May and has a dozen others slated to open this year and next. PNC's network should total more than 80 branches here within the next three years.

Though in recent years Riggs began to invest heavily in its branch network, and expand hours at some locations, the plan was cut short by Riggs's regulatory troubles. Also, Riggs's ATM network is considered paltry and outdated compared with those of most of its competitors here.

"We believe from PNC's perspective that we need to expand in the Washington region and have a much broader network for consumers there," Rockey said.

Though several hundred mid-level and senior employees at the bank will lose their jobs after the merger, PNC said it plans to hire as many as 150 people by year-end and about 400 total by 2008.

The branch initiatives will be unveiled today at a news conference at Riggs's historical Corcoran branch downtown, where PNC also will announce that it has become the official bank of the Washington Nationals baseball club and outline its sponsorship of local arts organizations.

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