Wells Fargo plans mini-branches

Wells Fargo plans mini-branches

US bank Wells Fargo has outlined plans to open a series of technology-packed mini-branches in neighbourhoods that cannot support full-sized outlets.

At around 1000 square feet, the new sites - the first of which will open in the NoMa neighbourhood in Washington DC next week - will be around a third of the size of normal branches.

To make the most of the limited space, the new branches will be paperless while their layout has been carefully designed to ensure customers can still talk to staff in private, says Wells.

Large-screen ATMs will anticipate customers' preferred transactions and offer image deposits, instant issue debit cards, and e-receipts. Staff will use tablets and phones to serve customers and a free wireless hotspot will be available.

After hours, the store transitions into a smaller lobby format, providing customer's access 24/7 to several cash machines.

Jonathan Velline, head, ATM banking and store strategy, Wells Fargo, says: "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."

Although Velline insists that the mini-branches "complement" the main network, banks are looking at ways to cut the costs associated with their physical outlets as customers move to digital channels.

Smaller branches could be one way to bridge the online and offline worlds; an alternative to Bank of America's recently revealed plan to introduce ATMs that let customers talk to tellers through real-time video technology.

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