PNC's pop-up branch is coming back to Atlanta, if Eddie Meyers has anything do with it.
Meyers, PNC's regional president for Georgia, says he wants more of the 20-by-8-foot steel structures that he can deploy around the Atlanta area.
In the long-running debate about the future of the bank branch, PNC added a new twist when it introduced the pop-up branch in July 2013 in Atlanta. It opened one last month in Chicago's Congress Plaza.
The structures are small but pack a high-tech punch. Staffers, for example, used iPads to open new accounts or take loan applications. Customers who saw the pop-up branch were impressed with the concept, Meyers says.
"The space was tiny, but the technology inside it was spectacular," he says.
The mini-branch proved its worth in a number of ways, Meyers says. It helped get PNC's name out in Atlanta, a market the Pittsburgh bank entered in 2012. The branch collected mounds of demographic data on potential customers. And it led to numerous solid sales leads on everything from residential mortgages to business loans.
The $323 billion-asset PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) has been something of a contrarian when it comes to branch strategy. PNC has closed branches, but it's also been constructing new ones in key markets. At a recent outdoor arts festival in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, PNC deployed mobile branches, not unlike a food truck, that were equipped to handle banking transactions.
Meyers, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who played running back for the Atlanta Falcons, believes PNC needs to have a large presence in retail branches. That's not something every Wall Street analyst and investor wants to hear.
Customers want personal relationships with their bankers, and that typically requires a branch, he says. Branches help with brand development. And PNC sees branches as a way to reach out to community groups. At a branch it's designing at the Avalon mixed-use development in Alpharetta, Ga., PNC will include space for community groups to use for meetings or public programs.
Still, Meyers acknowledges the drawbacks of branches. His daughter opened her PNC account inside a branch office. But she hasn't set foot in a branch since.
Even though PNC plans to build more branches, changes will be made to their design, he says.
"Our branches are going to be smaller in size," Meyers says. "They're going to have more technology."
The technology aspect presents issues, too. PNC plans to add video tellers to its retail offices and reduce the number of in-person staff. Video tellers probably aren't the most conducive tool for strengthening personal bonds between client and bank, he admits.
Meyers plans to continue his strategy of building the PNC brand in the Atlanta market by financing high-profile projects that include a public element. PNC provided New Markets Tax Credit loans to the city's new National Center for Civil & Human Rights. And it financed construction for a new building for Drew Charter School, a school designed to serve students in low-income neighborhoods. Both projects had been stalled before PNC got to town, Meyers says.
"We put in the last dollars for some of those," he says. "We got those going after they had been idle for a while."