Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, digital banking had been on the rise. And this could not be more true after the marketplace made the online leap en mass this spring.
Representatives at Ohio-based Fifth-Third Bank note that at least 75% of their customers’ transactions take place on the bank’s app or website.
Still, Tommy Lloyd, senior vice president of the region’s retail arm, doesn’t think brick-and-mortar, face-to-face banking is going away anytime soon. In fact, he saw that during the pandemic, the bank experienced an increased demand for flesh-and-blood banking partners.
When the bank decided to expand its Upstate services beyond the commercial and wealth management market through a slew of new retail branches prior to the pandemic, little did its executives know that new division’s two-pronged model featuring both digital and interpersonal platforms would be in step with social distancing mores.
“We’re a relationship bank that’s digitally enabled,” Fifth Third CEO and President Greg Carmichael told GSA Business Report. “That’s how we go about our business. Relationship, first. Digital, to help our customers bank anywhere, anytime.”
While the majority of the bank’s customers rely on digital services for day-to-day transactions, they also prefer to meet in person for more complicated matters, according to Carmichael. Some customers only go inside a branch to do their banking. An even smaller group does all their banking online.
“I think all good banks have found that they need a physical presence,” Carmichael said.
The bank plans to install about 100 retail branches in the Southeastern market using this model. And as the first Upstate location, the new branch on 656 S. Main St. in Greenville, sets the precedent for the area.
While the branch eased into its new spot on the block for about a month before the ribbon cutting Sept. 30, the event, attended by Greenville Mayor Knox White and Carmichael, marked an opportunity to demonstrate how even the layout of the building — designed internally by architects within the company after months of customer-experience research — could support the needs of customers seeking face-to-face advising or a quick digital transaction.
“The design of this space is to allow both of those to merge beautifully,” Lloyd said. “It allows our bankers to move around the space, and the feedback we’re already getting from the Greenville market and all of our customers where we have opened what we call ‘the next gen office space’ has been overwhelmingly positive because it’s unlike any other space they’ve been in.”
The secondary lobby features a digital service screen, open-air “tech table” and lounge, while a row of flexible private booths with plastic dividers for maskless communication lines a long hallway.
Aside from typical banking services, Fifth-Third plans to use the space for hosting financial education programs, which Lloyd said is even more important in its Main Street location given the low-to-moderate income bracket of its potential customers.
The Main Street branch has brought four “high talent” jobs to the Greenville market, and with the addition of at least two branches in the next 12 months and three more after that, about 30 positions will be created in the Upstate.
The Augusta Road and Five Forks areas are slated as the location for the next two branches.
So far, Lloyd said business has been steady on South Main.
“We have a great team here,” Carmichael said. “We have great people that are passionate about their jobs, and I think it’s been a homerun already just in the short opening that we’ve had. I think it’s gone extremely well.”e