Branch Transformation—Merging Technology, Retail Space and Personal Service
As banks strive to adapt to evolving customer expectations and technology, branch transformation becomes increasingly important to offering an efficient and engaging environment. The Community Bankers Association of Georgia asked several of their partner firms to share what they are seeing in the field, as well as trends and the journey to dialogue banking. The orginal article was featured in the September/October issue of Georgia Communities First Magazine.
Branch transformation is happening in banks across the country and has become even more accelerated due to the recent labor shortage and pandemic. Financial institutions need solutions to help with efficiencies.
Chris Nelson, President of STS Group, Madison, AL, shared how his company is delivering the latest technology to help banks achieve their goals. “Teller Cash Recyclers (TCRs) are one of the most popular solutions we’re seeing in the financial industry. TCR’s allow branches to cut down on the amount of vault visits and increase the speed of night depository processing. This technology provides significant efficiencies in commercial transactions and is easily implemented across any teller application,” explained Mr. Nelson. “Can you Imagine the possibilities of staffing all of your drive-throughs in one centralized location, taking the burden of drive-through transactions away from the branch staff? Thanks to ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines), banks can centralize their footprint of drive-through tellers into one location. This allows for staffing adjustments including hiring part-time tellers during peak hours and increasing efficiencies. As customers are becoming more comfortable with the use of self-service ITM’s, what was typically a teller transaction has become a self-service transaction. This gives tellers the flexibility to cover more complex drive-through transactions,” he continued. According to Mr. Nelson, the Universal Banker concept and concierge-style branch is here to stay. Self-service safe deposit boxes and self-service coin machines for lobbies are allowing branches to do more with less during a labor shortage.
Speaking of ITMs, Rocky Golding, Marketing & Business Development, Southern Bank Equipment & ATMs, Duluth, notes the company has been in business almost 30 years and been able to partner with Georgia banks as they’ve grown and changed to adapt to evolving customer expectations and technology. This pandemic forced many financial institutions to re-evaluate the ways that they interact and support their customers while also keeping everyone safe. ITMs allow a face-to-face customer experience with the convenience and safety of never having to step inside a branch. “At Southern Bank Equipment, we’ve seen the greatest success with ITM adoption among our customers who promote and embrace the machines as a true customer retention and acquisition tool.”
Some examples include:
- Customer Culture Shift and Adaptation: Queensborough National Bank & Trust knew that their customers may be a bit apprehensive to use a machine in lieu of the teller line, so they got a creative. During early deployment, Queensborough had staff greet customers that were waiting to use the traditional drive through lane. Employees explained how to use an ITM and how the experience was the same as what they were already familiar with. QNBT also encouraged ITM use by giving away iPads to customers who used the machines to complete their transactions. Queensborough has seen so much success with their ITM deployment that they will soon be opening their very first branch with all ITMs (vs. standard drive through system).
- Personification : Meet “Pinny”: Pinnacle Bank was one of the earliest adopters of the Interactive Teller and truly bridged the gap between technology and personal experience when they gave their ITMs a persona. Pinnacle named their interactive teller “Pinny” and promoted their new “teller” in their branches and through all their marketing channels.
Russ Schoper, CMO & Business Development Consultant at CashTrans, Austell, has found organic growth and mobile/ online video account acquisition are cost-effective ways to attract new customers. Eli Tinsley, President & Chief Banking Officer Planters First Bank, Cordele, explained that the bank rolled out their digital program earlier this year. “Our bank has benefited significantly with this digital product which is linked to our website and a separate mobile video banking app within our Solutions Center. We have found that it is a quick and cost-effective way to onboard new customers,” he explained.
Michael Smith, Regional Vice President, Eclipse Brand Builders, Johns Creek, shared the struggle many banks face with the looming decision to dump the iconic teller line and move to the dialogue banking model. Though it was introduced more than two decades ago, dialogue banking is still a new concept to many community banks. The goal of dialogue banking is to improve customer service and create cross-selling opportunities by utilizing technology (teller cash recyclers) to remove physical barriers (the teller line) and replacing traditional branch staff (tellers) with “universal bankers” who are both gifted with excellent people skills and cross-trained to handle any customer need. These changes create an interactive, friendly, and personal customer experience that fosters customer engagement and loyalty and drives sales.
Planters First Bank, headquartered in Cordele, found themselves pondering these and other questions during early planning for a new branch office in Warner Robins and partnered with Eclipse Brand Builders, a consulting + design + construction firm to help the bank develop an office with a completely redesigned customer experience that can be used as a model for the bank going forward.
Lisa Lane, EVP, Chief Administration Officer at Planters First Bank shared the following, “I’m proud and excited to help bring a brand new, state-of-the-art banking center to Warner Robins and we are eager to provide our special brand of banking services under the leadership of Clay Corbitt and Kristina Gibbs.”
Dan Duchnowski, Chief Deposit Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Planters First Bank, explained, “We’ve not built a new branch in several years, but our leadership understands that banking has changed dramatically. Rolling out a dialogue banking model was a natural next step for us. We are focused on commercial banking and this model fits well with our strategy to provide relationship banking and deliver a unique customer-centric experience that also provides a retail component.”
A unique feature is a dedicated space for video banking, which is a private location for customers and prospects to interact with banking experts through a secure portal no matter where the banker may be located in the bank’s network. The new branch will include lending offices, a conference room and features such as a covered outdoor space for private and public gatherings; and a pandemic transaction counter located in the vestibule that can be activated should the bank need to close the lobby in the future, allowing customers to conduct business without entering the lobby. The goals and outcome of every community bank’s decision to embark on the journey to dialogue banking will be unique to their brand, culture, and demographic niche.