The evolving community bank branch

January 20, 2017 | GET MORE : Future of Banking

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People are banking the way they did years ago, so U.S. Bank is adapting its branches based on how customers want to use them

Telephone banking was supposed to be the beginning of the end for bank branches.

Nearly four decades later, bank branches are still a cornerstone of our communities.

Although the number of bank branches in the United States has been decreasing for several years, it's hardly been the precipitous decline so often predicted. Rather, at each turn, banks have adapted their branch networks to reflect changes in how consumers want to use them.

Last month U.S. Bank opened a new branch in the urban St. Anthony Falls neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis. It had previously operated a branch on an adjacent lot, but last year sold it to make way for a mixed-use development in the burgeoning neighborhood. Instead of skipping town, the bank decided to build the new branch just a few hundred feet away.

Step inside and the new branch reflects the changing purpose of branch banking, which is shifting from transactional to more consultative in nature. St. Anthony Falls is the first U.S. Bank branch in the Twin Cities to be built without a teller line, for example. Customers are greeted by employees moving around the lobby taking care of simple transactions at pod-style counters, with office space for longer one-on-one conversations.

This new design reflects U.S. Bank’s philosophy on branches.

"We still believe a branch is very, very relevant," said John Elmore, vice chairman of consumer banking at U.S. Bank, speaking at the bank's triennial Investor Day in September. "In our view, it's the marriage of digital, virtual and physical that gives our customers the opportunity to access us what, when, where and how they choose."

Elmore went on to explain that customers across all generations tend to use a combination of channels for their banking, citing that every 90 days over half of customers use three or more channels.

Branches are also the key to building relationships in the community, Elmore said.

"One of the things unique about us is that our branch managers spend half of their time outside the branch” getting to know small business owners, civic leaders and social service organizations," he said. "It's important that our people connect to their local community."

Customers at U.S. Bank’s new St. Anthony Falls branch will see the familiar faces they've gotten to know over the years, including manager Mike Hermanson, who's been with the bank for five years having previously spent a decade in the United States Navy.

"Communities change, and while the reason people come into their local branch is evolving, human interaction and relationships are still important," said Hermanson. "By adapting our design to accommodate those changing behaviors, we’re continuing to meet an important need and remain an integral part of the community we love."

Teri Charest is a member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.