Imagine walking into a bank and being able to take out a loan or withdraw or deposit money with the aid of a video chat instead of a human teller.
[caption id="attachment_209730" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Video concierge services are slowly entering banking, as Bank of America debuted its first advanced center in Newark, Del. earlier this year. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BANK OF AMERICA[/caption]
That’s not some far-off future, but the experience at a small number of Delaware banks, including one of Bank of America’s locations in Newark. At the Advanced Center, clients are guided by signs on how to speak with employees working remotely via ATMs. Video conference rooms give customers the ability to speak privately with Bank of America staff on loans, investing and other banking needs.Chip Rossi, Bank of America Delaware market president, said the Newark Advanced Center is the latest step in the bank’s drive for digital adoption across the country. First piloted in 2017, Bank of America opened one in the Fern Rock neighborhood of Philadelphia and now has 130 Advanced Center locations across the country.“We’re seeing a shift in how our consumers interact with us, leaning toward digital, and we want to provide a high-touch way of meeting with them, however and whenever,” Rossi told the Delaware Business Times. “The plan is to fine tune these locations and streamline it to the market. The pandemic just revealed a greater need for it.”Such videoconferencing resources have not found a foothold in many large financial institutions yet, but it has been tested in smaller ways. In Newark, Bank of America offered video ATMs while some Citizen Bank locations offered video teller services at drive-thrus in Philadelphia and Mississippi. In October, Citibank launched a pilot of video banking with 200 bankers in 50 branches across the country over Zoom.
[caption id="attachment_209731" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Smart offices, or rooms where clients can meet with a banker through a two-way video call, are another innovation banks are exploring as they bring more technology into branches. Smart offices allow bankers to talk with clients about sensitive issues like loans or investing | PHOTO COURTESY OF TIDEMARK FEDERAL CREDIT UNION[/caption]
For the banks that do offer a full range video service, data showed that consumers used the resources even before the COVID-19 pandemic drove more of them to do so. A late 2019 survey done by Phoenix Synergistics, a global small business marketing firm, found that while 17% of consumers polled had used video chat through a website or app with their bank, almost 90% of them found the service valuable.Tidemark Federal Credit Union, based in Seaford, launched virtual tellers years ago, and Chief Operating Officer Paul Steelman said that customers have really thrived with it. Tidemark can handle all typical teller transactions through teller machines, which include two-way video, except issuing a cashier’s check.“Much of our members' activity transitioned online during the pandemic, and it was a surprise, but that increase has continued even after our branches reopened. I do think people are a little more open to electronic channels with the pandemic, and that can help ease the apprehension of learning a channel that is new to some,” Steelman said.Bank of America’s data backs up a strong interest in more online services. Rossi reported that 70% of its business is done digitally, including three-fourths of its wealth management clients. In addition, about 160 million checks were deposited through the bank’s smartphone app last year. Meanwhile, about 58% of Bank of America consumers made mortgage applications online and 78% made auto applications online. That’s up from 36% and 60%, respectively, from 2019.The banking giant’s fastest growing demographic is seniors, a sign that people across all ages are becoming more comfortable with mobile uses.“Banking is not one-size-fits-all anymore, especially with hours 9 to 5. The Advanced Center allows us to offer the full breadth of banking services,” said Andrew Johnstone, Bank of America vice president and Delaware market leader for consumer banking. “This location in particular can help ease the process if students are looking for flex loans. As we expand, the more options we can leverage for our consumers.”For smaller banks like Tidemark that serves Sussex County and neighboring Maryland counties, Steelman said it may be easier for companies to make the jump and form relationships with consumers through a video screen.“I do think two-way video is here to stay, and if you’re a smaller institution it’s easier to be nimble and pivot. We were ahead of the curve, and at Tidemark we want all our members’ needs to be met, AnyTide, AnyTime, AnyWhere,” Steelman said, referencing the credit union’s motto.“We’re always going to be tech first, with that said, stay tuned because video calls through our website and smartphone app will be next,” he added.Editor's note: a previous version of this article incorrectly said that 58% of Bank of America consumers made mortgage payments online and 78% made auto payments, not applications online.