PNC Opens 'Pop-Up' Branch in Chicago

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After dropping its first "pop up" branch in Atlanta less than a year ago, PNC Bank has opened a second in Chicago's Congress Plaza.

A pop-up branch is a 20-by-eight-foot steel container, transported by flatbed truck, that is one leg of PNC's strategy to evolve from teller lines and transactions to technology and conversations. The 8,000-pound structure was designed to engage pedestrian traffic off the streets to show off digital services that the $323 billion-asset PNC can offer prospective customers.

The pop-up branch includes an ATM that dispenses $1 bills, cashes checks and accepts deposits. Two full-time staffers use iPads to open new accounts, take loan applications and refer customers interested in mortgages and investments to specialists. Technology specialists will also demonstrate PNC's products like Virtual Wallet and Cash Flow Insight for small businesses.

"This pop-up branch is not a replacement for traditional branches. It is an opportunity to expose people and introduce who PNC is to more customers than we would have with our Chicago branch footprint," said Todd Barnhart, executive vice president of branch banking at PNC, in a phone interview last week.

PNC has 15 traditional branches in the downtown Chicago region, Barnhart noted. Two branches are located within two blocks of the pop-up.

PNC's Chicago pop-up branch will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will remain in Grant Park for three months before moving to an uptown destination through Labor Day.

"Chicago is a great place to be, particularly in the summertime, for something like this because you have a lot of people out and about," Barnhart said. "It's a chance for people who wouldn't normally walk by a PNC branch or know who we are yet to try to introduce them to who PNC is."

PNC sees great value in establishing these types of branches nationwide as the cost to operate a pop-up is one-fifth less than a traditional branch.

"For a reasonably low expense, we can have a lot of impact and impressions for prospective customers that is hard to replicate with a traditional branch," Barnhart added.

Last August, PNC placed its first pop-up branch in Atlanta's Atlantic Station for three months. During this time, it generated approximately the same amount of business as a traditional branch, including new account openings in checking, savings, money markets and credit cards, the Pittsburgh-based PNC said.

Other banks have launched similar mini-branches as more consumers are now using digital channels to do their banking. Earlier this month, Wells Fargo opened its second mini-branch in Washington, D.C., to reach people who are comfortable using technology to complete their banking functions.

Meanwhile, SunTrust opened this week an Atlanta innovation branch to test new bank technology concepts that could be used in other SunTrust branches nationwide.

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Comments (1)
What's the regulatory burden to be authorized to open, close or move a pop-up branch?
Posted by chichi6363 | Wednesday, May 21 2014 at 8:10AM ET
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