PNC Bank has opened its first pop-up branch in Atlanta, ditching tellers in favour of consultants who will help customers with more complex transactions and show off mobile and online services.
As more consumers turn to digital channels to conduct their daily banking transactions, the downward trend in branch activity levels is accelerating, fuelling the debate over the value of branch networks in a 21st century banking model.
Analyst house Celent says that the banking industry will soon respond to the obvious migration of customers to new digital alternatives and is forecasting a dramatic 30-40% reduction in the number of operating branches in the US over the next decade.
PNC is experimenting with a 20x8 foot pop-up branch, which will be open for three months at Atlantic Station in Atlanta. Instead of tellers, the branch will be staffed by financial services consultants who will help with new accounts and personal loans along with referrals for mortgages, investments and merchant services.
The consultants will also use iPads to demonstrate online and mobile services such as the PNC Virtual. For routine transactions, a 'smart' ATM will be available 24 hours a day for customers to withdraw and deposit cash and cheques.
Todd Barnhart, EVP, branch banking, PNC, says: "When it comes to major financial decisions, most customers want a face-to-face conversation, so our emphasis is more on in-depth conversations vs. routine transactions, which can usually be done via our ATMs, online or mobile options."
PNC is also testing two other potential new paths for its branch network. In Philadelphia an open plan technology packed 'solutions centre' is being piloted, while in Pittsburgh a 'mini e-branch' is on trial.
In a similar move, Wells Fargo recently outlined plans to open a series of technology-packed mini-branches in neighbourhoods that cannot support full-sized outlets. Meanwhile, Mountain America Credit Union has put a 'technology champion' in every one of its 76 branches to help members get up to speed with its mobile and online services.