VOL. 133 | NO. 78 | Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Designing the Future
By Andy Meek
Legacy banking institutions like Regions Bank increasingly want their brick-and-mortar locations to look like something other than, well, a bank.
Angie Brigman, left, meets with Lilian Slavick at the new Regions Bank branch in Lakeland. This is the fourth Regions Bank to incorporate the brand’s new architectural design. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
That is, like something other than the traditional idea of a bank. Back when a branch office meant maybe fine art on the walls, a few desks scattered on the main floor, a line of teller stations - Regions’ newly opened branch in Lakeland, near the corner of Canada Road and U.S. 64, is pretty much the opposite of that.
It’s got an open, modern look with lots of glass on the front, slightly reminiscent of something like an Apple store. Artsy furniture, high-tech screens throughout and the place is packed with technology like Regions’ Video Banking ATMs.
Those are ATMs fitted with screens that allow for a live, two-way video connection between the customer and a Regions Video Banker. Along with processing most basic transactions, those Video Bankers can also help people with account maintenance and general inquiries.
Three of those ATMs are in the drive-through; there’s also a walk-up Video Banking ATM in the foyer.
Other high-tech touches include facial recognition and fingerprint technology for customers using safe deposit boxes. And in what’s been the trend for a while now in bank branch design, also absent is the so-called teller row.
Instead of waiting to be called to approach the teller counter, when customers walk into the new Lakeland branch they’ll be greeted face-to-face with a Regions banker who’s able to help with everything from general transactions to more in-depth needs like analyzing financial options or helping plan a budget.
Which is, of course, in contrast to the more transactional nature of the system of having tellers be one of the main touchpoints for customers inside a bank branch.
“When you think about customers and people and how technology has changed how people interact with really any industry - customers want several things,” said Michael Pardue, Regions Bank consumer banking executive for the Mid-South. “Ease of technology for their simple needs, but they also want the value of a personal interaction for more of their complex needs.
“I think when you walk into our new design, you find the beauty of both of those,” he said. “Bankers greeting you immediately when you walk in. If it’s something more complex, we’ve got six bankers in this particular location who are all highly trained to have deeper conversations with customers. On the other side of that, a customer may come in and just want help with something on their phone.”
The Lakeland branch is the fourth such location in the Memphis area where Regions has deployed its new modern branch design. The others are at 88 Union Ave. Downtown; 6200 Poplar Ave. in East Memphis; and 1284 S. Germantown Road, in Germantown.
Inside the new Regions Bank in Lakeland. This is the fourth Regions Bank to incorporate the brand’s new architectural design. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
It’s more than a mere test project for Regions. The Birmingham-based banking giant, like many of its peers, has grappled with the double-whammy of declining foot traffic and transactions inside its branches for much of the recent past as customer behavior shifted to the Web and then to mobile devices.
Amid a rethink of how to approach their brick-and-mortar footprint, banks have been trying to figure out how to rejuvenate the idea of in-branch banking where possible. They can’t give up on it entirely, as some customers do still prefer coming into a branch. And real estate, of course, can’t just be dropped suddenly and abandoned as new trends emerge.
Speaking of real estate, Regions opened its latest in Lakeland on April 9. It’s holding a grand opening bash this weekend, on April 21.
It’s not the only banking company pursuing similar ambitions along these lines - of changing the way customers interact with its physical spaces and leaning into the future with design and technology.
But Regions’ efforts are worth paying attention to, because they’re bearing fruit.
Regions says it’s seeing an uptick in customer traffic and similar metrics at the branches in Memphis with the modern design, proving that even for an otherwise hidebound industry like banking, tradition and modern conveniences don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
“Regions continues to invest in online and mobile banking channels, but at the same time, branches are still the primary place where people prefer to open accounts and have discussions about personal financial goals,” says Regions West Tennessee president David May. “(The new Lakeland branch) places a premium on customized service while also providing technology upgrades designed to meet the needs of today’s consumers.”