MIAMI — The trend of banks kitting out their branches with tablets continues.

The hardware, however, is requiring a new skill set of branch personnel: demo digital banking channels so customers know what other channel options exist and learn how to interact with the bank beyond the branch.

In other words, branch employees are required to do more than sell; they must teach.

U.S. Bank recently began equipping some of its branch bankers with iPads and asks them to show customers how to access and use bank accounts digitally, said Alison Thorud, multi-channel digital product strategy manager at U.S. Bank, during a presentation at the Mobile Banking and Commerce Summit.

Other banks like Wells Fargo and Huntington have also equipped some branch personnel with tablets.

The U.S. Bank pilot was inspired from research the Minneapolis bank conducted in 2010 that looked into why people refrained from online banking and found out that some customers failed to realize the option existed, while other individuals weren't comfortable interacting digitally or assumed there was an added cost involved. "We realized our customers want more guidance," Thorud told attendees.

The tablets help solve that need.

What makes someone want to interact with a bank through a different channel depends on the person. "It becomes critically important to understand the mindset," Thorud said.

Perhaps a banker couldn't convince a grandmother to make electronic bill payments from the outset, but maybe she would track her payment online and eventually trust the channel enough to transact online, Thorud said. Or, rather than try to get college students to pay bills online — many of whom may not have many bills to pay — promote the peer-to-peer functionalities, she advised fellow bankers. Simply put: tailor the lesson to the type of person.

Before teaching a customer about digital banking, the bank first must convince branch employees that encouraging use of digital banking options won't cost them their jobs. "If bankers can understand the benefit, they will help [consumers] get engaged," she said.

In the coming months, Thorud said U.S. Bank is looking at how it can also make use of the consumer's device in the brick-and-mortar locations. With people entering the branch with their own smartphones and tablets, she said there's "a great opportunity" for bankers to use the technology to offer people a better financial experience, such as showing them how to customize their credit cards, among many other functions. "Customers are looking for how-do-you-do-this" experiences, she said.

Mobile banking enrollment is also on the bank's to-do list.

The company operates 3,084 banking offices.