Are Bank Tellers Going The Way Of The Dinosaur?

Between ATMs, online banking and smartphone apps, the average person can now go months, possibly years, without ever having to go into a bank and interact with a teller. And a number of financial institutions are continuing to looking for ways to remove tellers from the equation — or at least move the tellers somewhere that they aren’t taking up expensive real estate.

Customers with boring old checking and savings accounts (especially those that don’t total in the six figures) are nowhere near as profitable to banks as mortgage borrowers and those who put hundreds of thousands of dollars at the institutions’ disposal.

And with a growing number of account-holders opting for the aforementioned mentions of account management, fewer people are queuing up to make deposits at their local bank branch. So it’s no surprise that banks are looking to minimize the time, labor and money expended on providing face-to-face interaction with customers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chase is currently testing machines that allow customers to perform some tasks not currently available through an ATM. That test could expand to 1,000 branches during the next year-and-a-half.

Bank of America recently tested video teller machines that give customers video screen access to BofA employees located in a centralized call center. The bank says it is reviewing the results of that test before it decides how to proceed.

Meanwhile, Coastal Federal Credit Union based in North Carolina has gone ahead and installed video tellers in all of its branches.

“Branch managers don’t have to worry about manning the teller operations anymore, so they can be totally focused on the members who walk in,” explains a rep for the credit union, adding that the company saw a 40% cost savings by replacing branch tellers with video tellers.

While we are all for technology that makes it easier to interact with the bank, we do worry a bit about banks closing too many branches and/or whittling branches down to only those employees who specialize in big-ticket accounts.

A number of people already choose online-only banking, but that is a choice made by the consumer. If banks eradicate in-person interaction completely, then the choice to go online-only is not the customer’s.