There are many online banks out there to choose from, but many of them don’t have a physical place where you can go to do business with them. All transactions are done online, although in many cases you can contact a teller, usually by email, instant message, on video, or by phone. This trend is coming to the big banks as well. The Bank of Montreal, for example, has started opening branches in Chicago that feature video tellers who work out of a central hub, also known as a “customer contact center” and are not physically present in the branch office. The bank provides mortgage and loan experts that travel from branch to branch as needed, using tablets or laptops to connect to the bank’s computers and complete all necessary transactions. Customers can also opt to use an automated kiosk to make investments or apply for loans.
At one time, there were 95,000 bank branches in the United States, but that number has been falling for years. Rural areas and smaller towns have seen bank branches close in a cascade that has left many areas with little or no choice of who they bank with.
The main reason for the growth of tellerless bank branches is, of course, to allow the bank to increase its profit margin. The tellerless branch requires fewer personnel, less square footage, less upkeep, and a smaller investment all the way around, while at the same time still offering services that customers can be charged for. At the same time, though, bank customers are being offered longer opening hours, more autonomy in how they do business with their bank, and more choices in almost all aspects of their financial lives. In some cases, an unmanned bank branch with virtual tellers can be opened in rural or remote areas, giving customers access to bank services that they would not otherwise have.