The future of the bank branch has arrived, and it all starts in Minneapolis (and Denver).
Dean Athanasia, co-head of the consumer banking unit for Bank of America, said during an investor conference on Tuesday:
We’ve got completely virtual branches with people and completely automated branches, we’re testing, we’ve got three out there. So, those are the things I’d look at in terms of investment. Things that will carry you into the future, not necessarily the immediate bottom line today, but you’re investing and preparing for the future and where this is all going.
According to Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace, two of the three completed automated branches are located in Minneapolis, and the other is in Denver. The branches come equipped with ATMs and spaces for private video conferences between BofA clients and bankers.
The bank recently opened new financial centers in both of these cities, so “there was an opportunity there” when it came to testing out more automation in the bank branch, Pace said.
“These are being tested; they are in the very, very early stages,” said Pace of the branches, which were all opened for business within the past month.
BofA’s automated branches are about a quarter smaller than those the bank stocks with humans; the branches currently come equipped with a “digital ambassador”—who is a human being—that can answer customer questions about the technology. The lobby of a BofA financial center, shown above, might provide a good metric for what to expect from the automated branches.
According to Athanasia, there are currently 3,500 digital ambassadors at the bank.
Bank of America also began rolling out cardless ATMs (that is, ATMs that are NFC-equipped) within the last year, though Pace could not say definitively if those ATMs were being used in the automated branches.
The bank could also open has many as 60 new branches in 2017—compared with 31 branches in 2016—where cardless ATM might be deployed. BofA currently has about 4,689 branches, according to its most recent earnings report, compared with 4,835 a year ago.
In addition to developing the future of the bank branch, BofA’s drive towards digital continues with up and coming technologies such as “Merrill Edge guided investments,” which Athanasia termed a robo-advisor “for lack of a better term,” as well as the much anticipated 2017 rollout of its banking chatbot, erica.
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