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Behind the ATM: Bank of America wants you to come back inside the actual bank

A man uses a Bank of America automatic teller outside a bank branch in Washington, D.C.

It feels like banks have been pushing us away for a while now. Bank in your living room! There’s no need to bank at the bank!

But now, Bank of America wants to get close, really close. Customers want options, says Bank of America’s Aditya Bhasin. “We’re in a human era where their expectations of the brands that are important to them are that they are meeting their needs and doing it in a way that is eye-to-eye, and human, and connected and humble.”

Wait, humble? Bank?

Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, says a focus on connection and being a good-guy bank, makes sense. “The real key to profitability in banking is for each customer they have, is to get more of their money, a higher share of wallet,” she says. In order for our bank to do that, we need to like it, “you have to feel comfortable with the bank,” says Kahn, “you have to want to have repeat business with the bank.”

As part of the brand overhaul, the bank is launching ATM’s with tellers available to video chat. It’s also going to encourage customers to set up one-on-one conversations about personal finance goals.

There will be talking.

Which could be good for the Bank of American balance sheet.  “What I think these banks have found is that by introducing people to new services, and trying to sell them through the internet, or messages on their mobile devices, have not been particularly effective,” says Greg Sterling, an analyst at Opus Research. 

Much better to have a real person make the pitch, while they’re making nice.

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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