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Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

Commerce Bank opens new, high-tech banking center in 2014

    Commerce Bank has moved to the next generation in branch banking with its new, high-tech center at Vandeventer and Chouteau in St. Louis. The branch opened on Nov. 8.
    Commerce has been on the corner since 1978. When it came time to rebuild it, said Darryl Collins, executive vice president and St. Louis retail market director, bank officials decided it would be an opportunity to try some new things.
    “We looked at competitors; we looked at best practices of other people in the field; and our customers; and designed a high-tech, next generation banking branch,” Collins said.
    The goal was to marry technology and personal service and give the customer a choice on how they want to bank. For example, customers can choose self-service and handle their transactions via video kiosk or opt to work with a personal banker.
    Branch banks are often limited on the services they can provide because each branch can’t keep a full staff of specialists on hand, but this new Commerce branch solves that problem by providing access to all of the bank’s resources via video conferencing. If a customer comes in, say, wanting to get information about a mortgage or a commercial loan, they’ll be able to connect with and talk to a specialist in that area via video conference. “You’ll be able to walk into that branch and connect with an expert on any of our products, for example small business, mortgage, brokerage, private banking, etc.,” Collins said.  
    The idea behind the new center, said Collins, is to mold the branch to the changing world of banking. With mobile banking and on-line banking, the number of people coming into the branch to perform traditional banking transactions has been declining for some time. But, Collins said he doesn’t see the bricks and mortar banks going away.
    “The people who come into the bank these days are people who come in very purposefully,” Collins said. “They’re not just coming in to do a transaction but because they have something a little more substantial they want to talk about. So, our branches have to become more nimble and more effective at meeting that customer’s needs, and as often as possible, offer a one-stop shop.”
    The new center is a pilot. It’s too early to tell but initial customer feedback has been good, according to Collins. The plan will be to gauge customers’ reactions as well as the staff’s; to see what’s working and what needs to be modified; and to export the best practices to the other branches.
    “People love all the new banking technology,” Collins said, “but, when they have something substantial, they still go to the branch. Branches are going to look different and our people are going to be providing an even better experience than you get today, but branches aren’t going away.”