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OM in the News: Laying Out the Bank of the Future

April 7, 2014

bank“JPMorgan’s banks of the future will fundamentally upend Americans’ relationship with banking,” writes The New York Times (April 2, 2014). They will offer more services for customers in far less space. The layout of the new banks has gained urgency across the industry as a growing number of customers use mobile technologies to conduct many traditional banking functions, like check deposits and paying bills, without ever stepping into a branch. Either the bank branches adapt or they go the way of video stores.

JPMorgan is not the only institution trying to reimagine the traditional bank branch with its long rows of tellers standing behind glass. Across Wall Street, banks are looking to slash expenses and wring more profit from retail banking. Banking giants like Bank of America and Citigroup are working to overhaul branches with the goal of more closely resembling an Apple store, where employees holding tablets and other high-tech gadgets tend to customers.

Last year, Wells Fargo opened a 1,200-square-foot “minibranch” in Washington. JPMorgan, whose legacy bank branches averaged about 4,400 square feet several years ago, has already slimmed them down to 2,500 to 3,500 square feet. That firm began by convening focus groups to determine what customers wanted. The findings: space and simplicity.

Within the new branches, the teller line is no longer the centerpiece. That has been moved to the side. The focal point is now occupied by express banking kiosks, a kind of souped-up A.T.M. Aside from their new look, the machines allow more customized transactions. Customers can, for example, opt to get cash in any amount and any denomination, not just in $20 bills or $50 bills. The new machines are safer, too. Unlike traditional A.T.M.s that must be restocked with cash, these units replenish their own supplies from deposits, cutting down on the amount of times that employees have to ferry money to the vaults.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. Why is layout a major concern to banks?

2. What other changes are taking place to make kiosks more secure>?

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