Forget mobile banking — just give us the cash!
That’s been the sentiment of residents in storm-battered northeastern states in the wake of tropical storm Sandy.
Many residents in states such as New York and New Jersey faced (and may still face) days without power and a shortage of important goods such as fuel. Their banks were in the same situation, and had the additional burden of supplying funds to customers who needed to buy supplies in what became essentially a cash economy.
The Wall Street Journal describes how crisis affected not only small community banks in coastal New Jersey, but Manhattan branches of major banks. Citibank’s 1 Broadway branch (just around the corner from Bank Innovation HQ) operated despite the lack of power using decidedly old-school methods. As late as Friday afternoon, tellers were still processing withdrawal requests by hand:
To make a withdrawal, a customer must first present identification. Then the teller calls another fully operational branch to verify that the funds are available in the customer’s account. A hold is placed on the funds until they can be properly processed.
Despite the lack of automation, customer Richard Fernendes said it only took him five minutes to make his cash withdrawal. “This way, I’ll have enough cash to get home,” said Mr. Fernendes, who handles security for a building downtown but lives in the Bronx.
The fundamentals, such as customer service, are not technology-dependent.