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No more 'free smiles' as JPMorgan brings back boring banking

Conventional wisdom has it that bank branches should take their cue from modern retail practices. They should be bright and welcoming, preferably open plan with comfy seating and staffed by approachable, friendly sales people.

So why is JPMorgan taking a bulldozer to the WaMu Occasio branch concept, a $1 billion branch remodelling exercise that freed up staff from behind counters and introduced a central concierge desk to direct customers to tellers milling around the branch.

That circle of tellers, the concierge, the signs that promise 'free checking, free smiles' are all being dismantled by WaMu's new owners and replaced by a conventional line of tellers stationed behind bullet-proof glass windows.

For Charles Sharf, the Chase executive driving the programme, traditional branches "are superior in every way".

"They might be boring, but they're practical," he told the Wall Street Journal.

For many in the industry this is banking heresy. Mr Sharf is upsetting two decades worth of highly-paid consultancy advice and dragging banking back into the 'bad old days' when branch staff were paid to provide a basic banking service, not serve coffee and sell you some unsuitable stockmarket-linked investment vehicle.

Come to think of it, he might just be on to something.

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Paul Penrose

Paul Penrose

Head of Research

Finextra

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London

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