Customers of the Regions Bank branch at 112 East Bankhead Street in New Albany are breathing easier after the branch re-opened a week ago, Monday, July 13.
Regions customers who went to the bank the prior week were surprised, and many were concerned, to learn that the bank facility was closed, apparently with no prior notice.
As with most banks in northeast Mississippi, the Regions lobby has been closed for several weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Region’s drive-through facilities, like those of other area banks, had been open during regular hours throughout the pandemic.
However, Regions customers who went to the Bankhead Street location during the week of July 6 found that even the drive-through teller windows were closed.
A notice was taped crookedly, with cellophane tape, to the thick glass of a teller window. It read: “This branch is temporarily closed. However, the following branch is open for business: Barnes Crossing Tupelo, 3963 Mall Drive, Tupelo, MS 38801.” The notice also included a Tupelo telephone number.
Another notice, partially typeset, partially hand-written, was taped to the stainless steel night depository box at the Regions Bankhead branch. It said: “This night depository is temporarily closed. Please visit the following branch for your night depository needs:” The same Barnes Crossing branch name was included on that paper, as well.
Nothing posted at the bank informed customers WHY the Bankhead Street Regions branch was closed, nor whether or when it would open again.
NEMISS.NEWS received inquiries from readers asking why the Regions Banks were closed.
Fairly simple question. Getting an answer turned out to be less simple than one might have imagined. We called the phone number provided. The phone rang more than 20 times, with no answer. We waited a few minutes and dialed it again. It rang 28 times with no answer before we broke the connection.
We went on-line and found an Area 205 number for the Regions Bank headquarters in Birmingham, AL. We called that number. It rang 15 times, and we were about to hang up when a courteous woman answered in Birmingham. We asked her why the Bankhead Street Regions Bank was closed. She answered promptly, politely and truthfully: “I don’t know.”
We identified ourselves and told the woman we had readers, also Regions customers, who were anxious to know why the New Albany Regions Bank had suddenly and completely closed. She said she would try to find out, and put us on hold for a few minutes. The woman at Regions, Birmingham, came back on the line and said, “I don’t know why it is closed, unless it’s because some of our branches are having to close due to the coronavirus. We don’t have enough employees. We had several branches here in Birmingham that had to close.”
Then she politely said, “I can fill out a complaint form for you if you’d like.” We thanked her, but declined.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused interruptions in many kinds of business services, so we did not pursue the inquiry any further.
Then, the drive-through banking services at the 112 Bankhead location were open again at noon on Monday, January 13.
We figured the Regions customers would be relieved that the bank was open again. Answers about why it was closed seemed less urgent. However, we were still curious and decided to contact the now re-opened Bankhead Branch to ask. We were unable to find a local phone number from any Regions source. We were finally able to get a number which worked. A courteous and friendly woman answered a call from NEMISS.NEWS mid week.
She explained that Regions policy is that any Regions branch will be closed if anyone working at the branch is suspected of having been exposed to the coronavirus.
When the possibly-infected employee tested negative, the branch was re-opened.
Regions Bank branches in Houston and Ripley, Mississippi, were closed during the same time the New Albany branch was closed.
We were told that Regions was working on a plan that would avoid completely closing branches as the coronavirus pandemic continues in future months. Workers from others of the 1,454 Regions branches would keep open a branch in which an employee has possibly been exposed to coronavirus.
The branch manager of the Bankhead St. Regions, Brian Wallace, was not available to take our call. We left a message asking him to call us, and he returned the call Friday afternoon, July 17th.
Mr. Wallace confirmed what we had been told by an employee of the New Albany branch earlier in the week. “Company policy is to close the branch if there’s any chance an employee has been exposed to coronavirus,” he said. “We did it to keep our employees and customers safe.”
Mr. Wallace was affable and courteous, but did not say why notices posted at the bank failed to tell customers WHY the bank was totally closed.
Brian Wallace said he had been the branch manager at the Bankhead Street Regions branch for six years. He is originally from Baldwyn, and worked for Regions in Batesville before becoming manager of the New Albany branch.
Wallace confirmed that Regions is working on a plan to prevent total closings of branches by having employees from other branches staff banks where it is suspected employees have been infected.
What is now known in New Albany as Regions Bank was originally founded as Bank of Commerce. It went through ownership and name changes and was known as Union Planters Bank until it was acquired by Regions in 2004.
According to reliable and publicly available information, Regions Bank is financially solid and there is no known danger of its failing.
Regions Bank was founded as First Alabama Bancshares in 1971. Its name changed to Regions Bank in 1994.
Regions Financial Corporation operates over 1,400 branches in 16 states. The company reportedly holds assets totaling $133.5-billion in 2020 and reported shareholder equity of $15.4-billion 2018.
Covid-19 coronavirus, New Albany MS, Northeast MS news, Regions Bank, Ripley MS