Academy Bank is branching out from the neighborhood Walmart.

The $973 million-asset bank will build one of its first stand-alone branches this year in Fairway, Kan., in the metro Kansas City area. Most of Academy's 88 branches are located inside Walmart stores.

The new 3,000-square-foot space will feature video machines that enable customers to perform up to 95% of transactions with a remote "virtual banker," according to the bank. It will also sport a coffee bar and lounge with charging stations. A concierge or "live" banker will be on hand to assist customers with the technology and answer questions about financial needs, Paul Holewinski, Academy's chief executive, said in an interview.

It could be the beginning of a much larger expansion of the technology-enabled branch concept for Academy, Holewinski said.

"We'll prove out the concept [in Fairway] and then look to take it to other locations or retrofit some of our existing locations," he said.

The branch's design also attempts to reel in members of the community. The space will include a conference room available for community use, outfitted with a video screen wired for conference calls and PowerPoint presentations.

People in the community "can stop by and if they want to talk about banking that's great, but if they just want to have a few quiet minutes to work on a tablet, check their email, that is the concept," Holewinski said.

Academy isn't the first bank to use technology and the coffeeshop concept inside a retail branch. Umpqua Bank in Portland, Ore., and First Cherokee State Bank in Woodstock, Ga., which later failed, are among the banks that have taken a stab at the idea.

Academy's new branch is scheduled to open next month. Academy's plan was earlier reported by the Kansas City Business Journal.

Academy Bank, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., is a unit of Dickinson Financial Corp. in Kansas City, Mo. Dickinson also owns the $1.1 billion-asset Armed Forces Bank.

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