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PNC talks future of bank branches

PNC Bank, like its peers in the banking industry, is responding to changes in how customers do business with them by testing new branch office formats and investing in new technologies.

Customers conduct more of their transactions virtually with their mobile phone or on a computer online. Brick-and-mortar branches are changing from teller lines heavy on financial transactions to higher technology places for bank officers and customers to meet.

This transformation is true for PNC.

However, the future of the bank branch is not dead, said David Melin, Dayton regional president for PNC. His territory includes Springfield.

“The historical branch was a transaction-oriented branch and that is what’s changing, is technology has allowed the customer to utilize those transactions at their convenience versus having to go to a branch,” Melin said.

“What the branch now becomes is more customer-focused, more information-centric. I would say in terms of once you come in there, we need to know who you are, why you’re there and be able to handle those needs quickly because you’re not coming back every week to cash your payroll check.”

The bank branch “becomes much more of a service, sales-oriented … base versus six people behind a nice marble gated teller window to cash checks and change currency,” Melin said.

Research found 18 percent of PNC customers use a branch as the primary way to bank with them. Mobile and Automated Teller Machine deposits represent 20 percent of all PNC deposits, up from 14 percent a year ago, not including electronic payments like direct deposit, Melin said.

That means more deposits are now made electronically, by mobile or ATM than in-person at the branch office, he said.

Because of “the technology that the industry is building around the client, we know our clients much better now than we use to in the past,” he said. “The systems are talking to each other, so we can give more proactive advice to our customers instead of 10 years ago, it’d be kind of the product of the month” sales push such as credit card and home equity campaigns.

The changes also mean not every bank branch has to be the same size and model.

“You’re going to have a mix. Instead of the branch looking like this with a drive-up window and a teller line in the back as you walk in and these big vaults, it’s going to change. It already is changing,” Melin said.

The mix of branches and services “allows you to be more flexible too as traffic patterns change or as demographics change in terms of growth areas,” he said.

PNC is testing new branch formats in other markets. Earlier in August, PNC planted an 8-foot by 20-foot “pop-up” branch in downtown Atlanta. Instead of traditional tellers, the portable, temporary branch open through November is staffed by financial services consultants who help with new accounts and personal loans along with referrals for mortgage, investments, merchant services or other products, PNC said.

The consultants also use iPads to demonstrate online and mobile services, PNC said.

This year PNC opened in the Philadelphia area a new-concept branch with specialists to provide guidance on various financial topics, said Cheryle Russo, PNC executive vice president and market manager for Central Ohio in charge of retail. The branch has digital tables with touch screen computers. Video conferencing is available for customers to speak to mortgage loan officers and other specialists.

“Customers no longer have to come back for appointments because the person wasn’t there,” Russo said. “Our goal is to bring the branch to the customer.”

Plans for new branch concepts are in the works for southwest and central Ohio, but are not yet finalized, Russo said.

Local customers will notice new “DepositEasy” ATMs installed at Dayton- and Springfield-area branches. The updates were completed in July, Russo said. The new ATMs let customers make deposits through the machines without envelopes. Deposits can be made until 9 p.m. same day, receipts print with pictures of check deposits and withdrawals can be made in multiple bill denominations.

In March this year, PNC announced plans to close 200 branches nationwide due to cost-cutting and changing customer habits. Cuts have come to include branches in downtown Springfield on West Main Street; Beavercreek on Indian Ripple Road and Dayton on West Third Street. The decision to close Aug. 16 the Dayton branch in the Westown shopping center angered local residents.

“From our perspective, the larger issue is that most consumers have decided ATMs, online and mobile banking best meet their everyday banking needs. Technology has made it possible to automate many functions that once could only be performed at the branch, and the number of customers at the teller window continues to decrease,” Melin said in a written response to a follow-up question about the Westown branch closing.

“Ultimately, there will be far fewer branches anywhere not because banks have decided that branches are less important, but because customers have. To that point, PNC is going to continue to invest in west Dayton and support the community through program and initiatives such as early childhood education and financial education,” Melin said in the statement.

The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. is the Dayton metropolitan’s third largest bank by deposits of approximately $1.5 billion, or 14 percent market share, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. It is the third-largest bank by deposits in Clark County of $232 million, 15.4 percent market share.

The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based company has 41 branch offices in Dayton, Springfield and surrounding areas.

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