Bank of America recently rolled out its first three automated banking centers in Minneapolis and Denver, coming at a time when many banks, BofA included, have closed branches to cut costs. So, what exactly is an automated branch, and what services does it provide (or fail to provide) its banking customers?
When you walk into an automated banking center—about a quarter of the size of a standard Bank of America branch—you’ll be greeted by its contemporary architecture, an inviting lounge (combatting the sense of sterility that usually comes with automation) and a single employee, a “digital ambassador,” to help in-person with any technological questions. Multiple tablet stations for self-servicing needs and the attractive, comfortable environment invite customers to sit back, relax and stay a while. According to Bank of America’s co-head of Consumer Banking, Dean Athanasia, the technology implemented in the new branches aims to “automat[e] every single thing,” including both simple and complex transactions, such as securing a mortgage. The branches’ modernized infrastructure and design seek to provide the flexibility the firm will require to address the varying purposes of a physical branch while adapting to future consumer needs.
The personal aspect of banking at a branch, however, is vital, as the ability to talk with a specialist is key for new business. According to Bloomberg analyst Leonid Bershidsky, 85% of mobile banking customers still use physical branches on occasion, proving that customers continue to value personal interaction for discussing complex subjects as opposed to just looking at material online. While BofA’s digital banking centers have automated most of the physical branch services, customers do benefit from the ability to videoconference with specialists to discuss and complete any transaction, a feature that will help ensure that customers are connected with specialists who can always help them, which isn’t even a guarantee at a teller window.
Automated Bank of America Branch
Will Bank of America’s automated branches strike the perfect balance between innovation and personalization by modernizing design and automating services while retaining the crucial aspect of speaking with a specialist? Athanasia highlights the long-term view of the investment, stating that the new branches will not help the “immediate bottom line today, but [the firm is] investing and preparing for the future and where this is all going.” Anticipating that the need for physical branches will endure, the firm has built flexibility toward less or more automation into the design of the banking centers, and it plans to roll out 50-60 more new branches this year.