Banking when you want it
hours: Everyone wants them, few will own up to them and no one can
quite define exactly what they are.
To further blur this already fuzzy colloquialism,
a few bold banks are actually open longer, including Saturdays and
Sundays, much to the horror of the old guard. Time, it seems, is
slowly ticking in favor of the consumer where bankers' hours are
In its 2001 retail banking survey, the American Bankers
Association broke out weekend hours by branch and off-site location
of institutions with more than $500 million in assets and those
with less. The association discovered that Saturday banking is fast
becoming the norm, with Sunday hours following at a cautious distance.
The trend definitely makes life easier for many customers.
It's a good deal for financial institutions, too. The more time
you spend with your local teller, the more time for you to discover
the other services the bank sells.
Bigger banks, more open hours
Larger institutions are leading the way. Eighty-two percent of them
open branch offices on Saturdays, with almost a quarter open on
Sundays, too. About 6 percent of the larger bank's off-site locations,
such as grocery stores, military bases and college and corporate
campuses are open both weekend days. The extended hours may be available
only at select branches or off-site offices.
"Sometimes the hours are abbreviated," says
ABA spokeswoman Julie Malveaux. "It may only be 9 a.m. to 1
p.m. or something, but availability is there. Sometimes you see
far greater hours when you get into what we call nontraditional
locations, such as supermarkets. Other off-site locations might be
retirement homes, military bases, retail locations, where the hours
are usually limited to peak times."
Malveaux says that although there are no directly
comparable figures from previous surveys, which polled three asset
classes rather than two, anecdotally the numbers are increasing.
"Especially with the pace of people's lives now,
people are so busy that they may not be able to get to the bank,"
she says. "When I was a kid, they closed at 3 p.m. Not so much
anymore. There are locations that still close at 3, but they may
have a drive-through window that stays open until 5 p.m. But more
and more their lobbies stay open until 4 or 5 p.m., especially on
This much is certain: With the exception of some small
one- or two-bank towns around the country, 9-to-3 bankers' hours
are fast disappearing from the American landscape.
Interest in extending that once-sacred workday increased significantly
with the consolidation of big banking in the '90s and the subsequent
growth of community banking in some regions.
Banks' extended lobby hours were a cost-effective
way to improve customer service and help retain longstanding clients.
Some community banks found that offering weekend hours gave them
an easy-to-deploy edge against their larger competitors who may
not have had the corporate flexibility or seen the need to do so.
After all, the fixed costs (electricity, security, etc.) are already
covered; add a couple tellers and you're good to go.
Two banks in the highly competitive New Jersey market
have been weekend warriors for years. Commerce Bank has offered
Sunday-to-Sunday banking since 1994. Today, most of its 185 branches
in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York remain open not
only on Sunday, but also on Memorial Day, July 4 and the day after
Thanksgiving. Its chief competitor, Summit Bank, now part of FleetBoston,
responded with seven-day banking hours at all 52 of its off-site
The movement is spreading. BankAtlantic introduced
seven-day banking to Florida in March. Metropolitan Bank & Trust,
a Cleveland-based financial institution, now opens its doors seven
days a week, as well.
"Sunday banking offers something to set us apart,
something a little bit different in the area," says Metropolitan
marketing associate Laura Kovach. "We have a total of 24 branches,
we're a little bit on the smaller side, so something like this gives
us sort of an edge."
It's not just hurried business people who appreciate
"For instance, in our Jewish communities, they
celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, so having a branch open on Sunday
provides another outlet for them," says Kovach. "It's
just good customer service."
The stop-and-shop lobby
Extending workdays doesn't mean the money-counters aren't keeping
a close eye on the cost of weekend hours.
"Extended hours are more of a retention tool,
more of a service. We don't really open more accounts or do better
sales on that day," Kovach says. "We look at the numbers
of customers who actually stop in that day to do their banking and
then associate that with the cost of staffing the branch to see
if its worthwhile."
And banks these days are interested in more than just
warehousing your money. Longer days may help with this goal.
The passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Modernization
Act of 1999 allowed banks to sell other products, such as insurance
and securities. Bankers want you to stick around and browse a little
in hopes you'll buy their expanding line of financial goods and
Will banks ultimately follow retailers into weekend
hours in pursuit of new customers for their growing product line?
"They may," admits Malveaux. "Only
time will tell, but that time won't be very long. It won't take
10 years to figure out if that is something that needs to be done."
Who needs a lobby anyway?
There is another consumer current running counter to all of this:
Many current customers may appreciate the convenience
of being able to bank with a live teller on the weekend, but chances
are their kids will neither want nor need the option.
"It will be interesting," admits Kovach.
"With how much banking is moving toward online and telephone
banking, there are fewer and fewer people coming into the branch.
I think it will really depend on what people are coming into the
branch for. People still have to physically come into the branch
to open up most products, but after they're opened, how much contact
is there after that?"
Malveaux agrees that expanded lobby hours may well
pass with the baby boomer generation.
"The next generation may not need extended hours.
They work entirely online and are more comfortable with credit and
debit payment than check or cash transactions," she says.
At which point, the few bankers left in an office
would presumably find themselves back working bankers' hours.
Jay MacDonald is a contributing editor
based in Florida.
-- Posted: May 8, 2002