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ELECTRONICS BECOMING YOUR BANKER

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The bank, as we know it, is vanishing.

A report released Friday estimates as many as 450,000 bank jobs will disappear in the next five years, and half of all U.S. bank branches will be gone in 10 years. The culprit: electronic banking.Banks have largely succeeded in persuading customers to give up their tellers for the impersonal, but efficient, service of an automated teller machine. Now, the separation between customer and bank is widening as banks put their technology-savvy customers on-line. These trends are expected to accelerate in coming years, concluded the national consulting firm of Deloitte & Touche, resulting in layoffs and closings of branches across the country.

"Very soon the average customer will rarely go beyond ATMs in bank lobbies," Frank Woosley, national director of financial service consulting at Deloitte & Touche, said Friday.

Bank consolidation, such as the recently announced merger of Fleet Financial Group Inc. and Shawmut National Corp., as well as dozens of takeovers of small banks by large, regional institutions, will result in fewer branches as banks combine and shut overlapping offices.

About 30 percent, or 840,000, of the 2.8 million U.S. bank employees work in branches, Deloitte & Touche estimated. Automation will replace 151,000 workers and shifts to electronic delivery of services will eliminate another 336,000 jobs. When the new jobs created through the electronic delivery of services are factored in, the net job loss is 450,000 by the year 2000, the study said.

Bank of Boston was in tune with a growing national trend toward computer banking when it announced in July that it will team with Microsoft Corp. to offer customers direct banking from their personal computers. The Windows 95 service will charge a fee and enable customers to pay bills electronically, view bank statements on the screen or transfer funds instantly between accounts.

Banks are starting to penalize customers who use tellers rather than ATMs. At First Chicago Corp., some customer are being charged for using tellers. At Citicorp, fees have been removed for ATM use and PC banking. Citicorp says that nearly 75 percent of its customers bank electronically part of the time.

Deloitte & Touche's findings are based on interviews with executives at 12 large U.S. banks, information gathered from the firm's bank consultants and branch and employment data from the government and industry groups, Woosley said.