As customers continue to turn to digital tools for their banking needs, one of the country's biggest banks believes branches still matter. However, it also believes those branches don't have to function in the traditional tellers-behind-windows model that customers have become accustomed to.
PNC Bank recently opened its first-ever portable "pop-up" branch in Atlanta. It's an 8-by-20-foot location that will only be open for a period of three months. Instead of tellers, it is staffed by financial services consultants who help customers with personal loans, mortgages, investments and other more complex products. In addition to having financial discussions with customers, consultants use iPads to demonstrate how to use some of the bank's online and mobile tools.
"Branch convenience to home remains the No. 1 reason that consumers choose their primary bank, but they are using branches very differently today," Todd Barnhart, executive vice president of branch banking at PNC, said in a statement.
"When it comes to major financial decisions, most customers want a face-to-face conversation, so our focus is more on in-depth conversations vs. routine transactions, which can usually be done via our ATMs, online or mobile options," Barnhart said.
In addition to testing how customers respond to a new style of branch banking, the location is serving as a test to help PNC's future plans in Atlanta, too. The bank is relatively new to the Southeast, and Barnhart says the bank can track customer usage to help determine whether the bank needs to open a permanent branch in the same area.
As members of the banking industry work to control their overhead costs, this may be a valuable tool for big banks that want to expand their footprints. There simply isn't a need to have bank branches on every corner anymore, and the pop-up model seems to be a great way to help banks figure out which neighborhoods will actually bring in enough customers to warrant buying or renting space.
What do you think of the pop-up model? Will customers appreciate a new twist on the same-old same-old feeling of bank branches?