Bank Branches are Turning the Tide on Teller Traffic

The rise and convenience of online banking has negatively impacted bank visits which saw a 90% decrease over the last decade. To entice customers, financial institutions are changing their layout to reduce wait times and keep visitors engaged.

As early as 2014 domestic banks noticed that a typical 8% increase in teller wait time and a 5% increase in the time it took a banker to solve their problems were affecting their customer base. In 2015, domestic visits were a dismal 1.8 to 2.3 times annually while internationally, FinansNorge (Finance Norway) recorded an average of 24.5 times a year in 1995 and only 1.3 times in 2016.

The FDIC has taken notice of the issue, reporting a 45% decrease in teller transactions and 68% decrease in check use. The FDIC, however fails to note any impact on brick-and-mortar branch visit, placing the blame on credit or debit cards being the preferred method of payment.

The past five years have seen banks double their incorporation of smartphone apps wherein customers can conveniently deposit checks with the snap of a picture, review account balances using their fingerprint, or transfer money with the swipe of a finger. And, when banking apps and mobile usage continued to increase, banks cut back on tellers and other staff to reduce salary, training, and benefits costs and increase their bottom line.

In January, Wells Fargo announced plans to close 400 banks by the end of next year, adding to the 84 already shut down in 2016; Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan have closed 389.

Instead of following suit, one Oregon-based bank is attempting to lure people into its branches with an enticing physical space. Umpqua Bank opened a store in the ever-trending city of Portland in 2015 reimagining ways to “advance its signature customer experience” and “designed to celebrate and showcase what makes Portland unique, and how smart financial choices can serve the community’s residents and businesses” says Umpqua president and CEO Ray Davis.

The space includes: free community areas intended to serve as meeting locations for businesses, organizations, and customers; a touch-screen app wall showcasing bank products and services; laptop-wielding employees who have the freedom to serve customers anywhere in the store; a lounge complete with branded coffee; a reading library; and a retail space featuring local businesses.

The space, defined by CNN as “slick, modern and comfortable” is designed to be a store where customers or passersby can learn more about the bank, browse options, shop locally, or simply relax – a true departure from traditional bank spaces. Chase, Citibank, and Barclays have noticed the potential and are emulating the idea and more Umpqua concept stores are opening in major cities so it seems that, for now, the idea is paying off.


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