Some regional banking companies are finding success reaching potential customers using full-service branches-on-wheels.
These branches are actually customized recreational vehicles that let banks peddle deposit, loan, and investment services beyond their natural branch networks.
Bank executives said the units are meant to educate the public about the benefits of electronic forms of banking.
"We want people to know they can open an account here, and with direct deposit and a debit card, they won't need their community bank anymore," said Craig Ray, relationship banking team leader at Keystone Financial Inc.
The $6.9 billion-asset banking company in Harrisburg, Pa., rolled out its mobile bank, KeyDirect, last year.
First Chicago NBD Corp., with $115 billion of assets, introduced its Bank Mobile in 1991. Thomas Kelly, a First Chicago spokesman, said the unit, which operates in low- and moderate-income Chicago neighborhoods, is designed to "make the bank more approachable."Other bankers said the mobile units can help scout unknown terrain for future expansion.
"It also helps us test certain markets where we don't have branches," said Faye Cannon, president and chief executive officer of $1 billion-asset F&M Bancorp in Frederick, Md., which introduced its mobile unit, Express Bank, in 1992.
Each of the companies' mobile units has regularly scheduled stops throughout their markets. And the branches keep moving-typically opening for business at 6:30 a.m. in, for example, the parking lot of a commuter railroad station and closing at 6 p.m., perhaps outside a retirement village miles away.
Keystone's mobile branch includes two fully equipped automated teller machines and two offices with sliding doors for private consultations. Its staff of five, which includes Mr. Ray, take turns driving the branch to areas near local businesses and town centers six days a week.
First Chicago's Bank Mobiles are staffed by three bankers "wearing khakis and polo shirts, not suits," Mr. Kelly said. The Bank Mobile branches offer ATM service and educational seminars, he added.
F&M targets businesses, town centers, and community events like craft fairs and athletic competitions, Ms. Cannon said. Staffed with three bankers, the branch includes "luxury seating" areas, a teller station, and a full-service ATM, she said.