One of America's biggest banks is testing a new model for in-person banking.
This week, Wells Fargo unveiled its new bank branch concept in Washington, D.C. The bank is calling it the "neighborhood bank format," a format designed to fit snugly in the crowded NoMa district of the nation's capital. While traditional Wells Fargo branches are sized between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet, the neighborhood bank format shrinks to approximately 1,000 square feet. To put that design in perspective, it's not much bigger than my quaint two-bedroom apartment.
The branch may sound small, but Wells Fargo has taken steps to maximize the real estate. While many banking customers may expect to see plenty of additional office space at bank branches, Wells Fargo says this new bank branch eliminates the paper-driven processes that waste valuable back-office space. Instead, employees will serve customers with tablets, and large-screen ATMs will line the walls.
"With this new store concept, we'll be able to offer person-to-person sales and service along with leading banking technology in settings that previously would have discouraged us from building a store," Jonathan Veline, head of Wells Fargo ATM banking and store strategy, said in a statement.
The strategy makes plenty of sense. More customers are relying on online banking and mobile banking tools, but bank branches aren't going to simply disappear. However, they will evolve, and this Wells Fargo concept highlights the ability of banks to drastically reduce overhead expenses while continuing to offer face-to-face service when account holders need to talk to a real person.
While the D.C. location is currently the only neighborhood bank on the Wells Fargo map, Veline says that the bank plans to let the concept evolve based on customer feedback.
What do you think of the idea? Would you prefer a smaller branch in your neighborhood?