Zombie Bank Showdown in the Met Life Building


Cue rolling tumbleweeds…

Is the lobby of the Met Life Building (200 Park Avenue) big enough for two bank branches facing each other across a 20 foot hall?  Are New Yorkers so lazy that they literally need an ATM on both sides of the hall?

Coming up from Grand Central every morning via the escalator to the Met Life Building’s lobby, I’ve noticed the makings of an interesting showdown between two of the largest (and most horribly managed) banks in the US.

On one side of the escalator, we see the brand-spanking new Citibank branch, complete with childish primary colors, a slug of ATMs and a back wall with “offices” to be used, I’m guessing, by investment counselors (possibly Smith Barney trainees?).  This is the space that was formerly occupied by Tropica, that seafood restaurant people would go to when the Oyster Bar was too crowded.

On the other side of the escalator is a Bank of America branch, now under construction, with a similar looking layout to the new Citi branch across the hall.  Interestingly, this B of A expansion project is underway in the space that Citi itself used to occupy.

Once completed, the branches of these two titans of terrible balance sheets and unwieldy corporate structures will essentially be staring across the Met Life lobby at each other, and vying for the investment dollars of the masses that just want to get home after a long day of work.

Will passersby be interested in being hocked by “advisors” from either of these two zombie banks?  Between B of A and Citigroup, roughly $100 Billion of taxpayer money has been flushed down the toilet.  If you are accosted by an employee of either of these hellbound banks about their “high CD rates” or “mutual fund programs”, feel free to ask them why you should trust your finances and investments to a company that can’t even manage their own money.

Nice to see that the relentless pace of expansion for these two behemoths remains unchecked.  There’s nothing worse than seeing vacant commercial space taken up by yet another bank and in this particular lobby, it’s almost as though Met Life wanted to waste the location.  On top of Citi and B of A, they are also host to Links of London (I’ve yet to see a single customer in the store), Cucina & Co. ($12 breakfast…hooray!), a new Swarovski Crystal store (perfect timing for the economic condition of NYC) and Godiva (which does business two days a year, December 24th and February 14th).

There is one wild card in the Zombie Bank Showdown, and this is the outcome I’m hoping for…one day, the Dreyfuss Funds Lions jump off the posters and retake their turf once and for all.  Keep the ATMs Citi and B of A, but lose the cubicles; leave the investment advice to those who are solvent.


Full Disclosure:  I have no positions in C or BAC

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