Building the Bank Branch of the Future: Bank of America’s Strategy.

Bank branches today process about half the transactions they did 20 years ago, and the cost per transaction has doubled from 48 cents to $1.08 per transaction. At the same time, bank customers are experiencingthe tradition of working with a teller coupled with the modern convenience of conducting many of their transactions using digital channels.Subsequently, Bank of America has implemented three new programs designed to enhance customer service. It’s part of the company’s quest to build the bank branch of the future.

Bank of Future

Let’s Talk

An Aite Group study profiled in the NY Post reported small businesses spend as much as $50 on banking services, or $600 annually, with banks that offer mobile banking services like online account access, payroll services, and online authorization and payment approvals. Small business owners don’t have time to go to the bank, and they’re demanding service become more mobile and electronically based.

BoA is reportedly testing a “Let’s Talk” button in its mobile app that would automatically authenticate a customer and connect the customer to a call center agent, allowing customers to skip the voice-interactive menus and complicated authentication processes. Adding Let’s Talk as a way to distinguish its mobile services from the competition. With malware targeting ATMs and creating new worries concerning endpoint security for devices , mobile banking could also provide a much safer way for bank customers to conduct important transactions on the go.

Teller Assist

In the past, if a BoA customer wanted to cash a check, the check had to be presented to a teller during business hours. With Teller Assist, customers can perform a variety of standard face-to-face functions using an specially equipped ATM machine. The machine is equipped with video conferencing capability so the customer can interact with a teller in real-time. The service combines the convenience of an ATM, but it enables the customer to ask questions or receive assistance if needed. Teller Assist provides a low-cost way to give customers access to a human teller without the overhead required to run a bank branch outside of normal business hours. It also allowed BoA to discontinue its practice of charging a maintenance fee to eBanking checking account holders if they require help from a branch teller.

Teller Assist ATM

Customers can withdraw cash from a Teller Assist ATM in a wide range of denominations including $1, $5, $20 and $100. They can also cash checks for exact change and make their loan and credit card payments. If a customer forgets an ATM card or loses it, she can still access her account by talking to the teller and showing a government-issued photo ID. In addition, customers have access to tellers outside of normal business hours, which is something customers increasingly want. Another credit union that opened a similar virtual teller program reported 60 percent of its virtual teller transactions took place outside of normal business hours.

Express Centers

BoA opened its first “Express Center” in Manhattan in August 2013. These centers are equipped with multiple Teller Assist ATMs, and remote tellers can assist customers who speak both English and Spanish. In addition to conducting all of the banking transactions they can at a single Teller Assist machine, they can also print full or mini-statements for their checking and savings accounts.

The Bank Branch of the Future

Two bank branches in San Francisco’s Union Square offer competing visions of the future bank branch. Chase currently operates a branch in San Francisco’s Union Square that places its virtual teller ATM machines front and center. Right behind its ATMs are small PC stations for customers who want to talk to remote tellers. The branch does have human tellers, but they’re tucked into the back corner of the branch.

Alternatively, Umpqua bank has a branch a short distance away staffed by “universal associates” who can help with any bank service including opening accounts and conducting transactions. Customers are encouraged to hang out, drink coffee and use free Wi-Fi. Although offering a Wi-Fi hotspot creates some network security questions for Umpqua, customers are encouraged to stay and to develop relationships with the associates.

By offering multiple channels for interaction, BoA seems to be embracing Chase’s vision of a branch set up for greater self-service. However, by providing Teller Assist, the company remains committed to offering a human touch.

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