Nearly a year ago, Superstorm Sandy brought a Hudson River tidal surge through the front door of a Chase Bank branch at the foot of a steep hill in Edgewater, N.J.
A boat from the marina across the street drifted across the parking lot and crashed into the bank’s north wall. Runoff from the driving rain found its way through a back door by an elevated drive-thru lane and cascaded into the lobby. Furnishings, flooring and even safe-deposit boxes were ruined.
That was then.
Today, no signs remain of the destruction, and the branch, which reopened in April, has been reborn as a showcase for design innovations that Chase has been rolling out in the past year, the company said.
“Hurricane Sandy, although unfortunate, gave us the opportunity to rebuild and be able to leverage our new design,” said Brad Nolan, Chase’s head of design for retail branch and ATM innovations.
The changes include the addition of a private-client area with two offices, more cubicles for specialist bankers who open accounts and sell securities, mortgages and small-business loans, and fewer teller stations — three instead of five.
Among the new, behind-the-scenes features are currency-counting machines that speed cash deposits at the teller counter and relieve stress for staff, who no longer have to count money by hand.
The design changes and technology improvements made at this particular branch office point to more striking innovations to come in bank design as the biggest national lenders adjust to a steady decline in foot traffic and changing customer preferences, while looking to hold down long-term labor and real estate costs.
So get ready for smaller branches with fewer tellers and more skillful ATMs.
For years, most people have been direct-depositing their paychecks, and more recently, bank customers have been increasingly turning to online and mobile banking, giving tellers less and less to do.
Meanwhile, bankers have been busy selling loans, credit cards and other financial products and services to their deposit customers in the branches.
These developments are reflected in the new branch designs, some of which have much smaller floor plans and no teller counters at all.
Instead, they offer concierge-like greeters and new-generation automated teller machines with check-imaging capability that can handle withdrawals and deposits, accept credit-card and loan payments, and cash checks.
Typically, they also have private areas where bankers can help customers open accounts or apply for loans and deal with questions and problems.