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VOL. 8 | NO. 24 | Saturday, June 6, 2015

Building the Bank of the Future

Triumph Bank unveils high-tech branch in Germantown

By Andy Meek

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When Triumph Bank holds the grand opening ceremony June 16 for its sleek, ultramodern-looking branch in Germantown, at 7550 West Farmington Blvd., it will be the culmination of a wholesale shift in the banking industry that Triumph CEO Will Chase has been thinking about for years.

Chase has been working to figure out what the bank branch of the future should look like, as customers flock to brick-and-mortar locations less while picking up smartphones more.


Moreover, that shift presents bankers like him with a conundrum: In a connected world, “you need to be closer to your customers,” he told The Daily News in 2012. “But how do you do that in a world that’s changing?”

Triumph’s new location provides a clue.

The new branch’s look and feel is more akin to that of the Apple store across the street than to the layout of a traditional bank branch, where customers walk in, stand in line and wait their turn.

Triumph’s new location has no tellers, no real lines that customers stand in and no so-called “teller row.” Hip-looking pods spread around the floor where employees can work with customers.

Employees now operate as so-called “universal bankers.” On a recent afternoon, a Triumph employee closest to the front door – upon noticing a visitor preparing to step inside – quickly moved from behind her pod and shifted to the entrance to intercept the customer with a greeting.

After determining what had brought the customer in that day, she motioned for the customer to join her at a nearby pod.

Other features of the new space include a 4-by-7-foot video wall featuring short educational videos on various online or mobile services. It’s located near a coffee bar and beverage center.

Triumph Bank intern John Brand, left, and universal banker Hunter Smith man service kiosks at the bank's new Farmington Boulevard location. The new branch eliminated the traditional "teller's row" in favor of a more open layout.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

“The number of people going into a banking office is declining,” Chase said. “If you can make a deposit through an app on your phone to deposit a check somebody gave you, you’ll decide you don’t need to come to a bank to do that.

“What we’re trying to find is a different customer experience to encourage people to come through our doors.”

Triumph is, of course, not the only bank thinking about how to compensate for customer trends taking the industry out of its mindset toward physical footprint, a mindset that’s sufficed for decades. Banks in Memphis and beyond are only now beginning to grapple with different pieces of the answer.

A large number of physical bank branches isn’t necessary to adequately cover a market, banking sources say. This represents a sharp turn from banking’s go-go years.

Pinnacle Financial Partners’ CEO Terry Turner, whose Nashville-based bank in recent weeks reached a deal to acquire Memphis-based Magna Bank, was emphatic in a recent interview with The Daily News. Acknowledging the reality of today’s banking customers, Turner said Pinnacle would not come into Memphis and embark on a building blitz.

Iberiabank opened a new branch in January, at 1296 Union Ave., which also did away with teller row in favor of a concierge-type atmosphere. Employees at Iberiabank’s new location also are referred to as universal bankers.

“The bank of the future” – the buzzy phrase that dominates banking these days – isn’t just about brick-and-mortar, though. It also involves technology. An increasing number of Memphis institutions are touting their investment in mobile offerings, in the robust capabilities of their apps and in a host of other services that don’t require a customer to step inside a branch.

At Triumph’s new location, everything hinges on a seamless interplay between three ingredients – people, technology and the space itself.

Triumph’s employees can float wherever they’re needed.

A tablet sits near a pod toward the front of Triumph’s Germantown branch that, along with the video wall, serves as an educational tool.

Within the bank itself, Triumph also has taken to calling the experiment it’s pursuing in Germantown “the bank of the future – now.”

“You have to be convinced the concept will work and that it will appeal to different people in different age groups for an extended period of time,” Chase said.

As a barometer of reaction to Triumph’s experiment, Chase said his daughter – who’s in her 20s – was taken aback when she first saw the space inside. Never mind that it’s a bank, she proceeded to describe it as “one of the coolest things she’s ever seen.”

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