Drive-thru windows are up and running again for banking facilities,  as what was old is new again.

How COVID-19 Has ‘Driven’ Changes in Banking – For The Good

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Both news and marketing messages flood the airwaves with the reminder that these are “uncertain” times, yet most would agree that this is an understatement at best. Theaters and theme parks typically teeming with families and friends now lie empty. Previously untouchable five-star hotel rooms remain vacant. Therefore, it should be no surprise that lobby traffic has slowed to a trickle as banks and credit unions adjust to accommodate social distancing rules.

If Rod Serling himself were to come up with such a script for an episode of the “The Twilight Zone,” it’d likely be deemed too far-fetched for airtime.

Will life ever return to some degree of normalcy? Of course. As the old saying goes, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. However, certain industries may not ever be quite the same as they were mere weeks ago – banking being one of them. In some cases, the new normal may well incorporate old school with high tech.

Drive-thrus are back in a big way
With retail banking tapped as essential business nationwide, financial institutions of all sizes have been challenged to balance optimal branch service with health and safety concerns.  A common strategy has been a renewed focus on drive-thru lanes. As we previously noted in a blog posted in February, drive-thrus had fallen out of favor in some parts of the U.S., while in others, their popularity had been constant pre-pandemic. However, given the emergence of COVID-19 and subsequent “social distancing” directives, drive-thrus are increasingly serving as the primary branch transaction vehicle for financial institutions everywhere.

Richard Hunt, chief executive officer at the Consumer Bankers Association, told Bloomberg that the shift to drive-thru is designed to improve convenience without unnecessarily putting anyone in harm’s way.

“We’re seeing a trend to go to drive-thru only for the safety of the customer and the bank employee as well,” Hunt explained.

One banking facility that is dedicating virtually all of its resources to drive-thru is PNC Bank. Headquartered in Pittsburgh and now boasting more than 2,450 branches nationwide, PNC Bank has mostly maintained normal hours of operation but with an emphasis on safe distancing between the teller inside and the customer outside, and 75% of facilities are open, CBS affiliate KDKA-TV reported. Customers can come in the lobby for some transactions, but these activities must be arranged by appointment-only.

“The safety and well-being of our customers, employees and the communities we serve remains our top priority, and our thoughts are with those who are being impacted by this global pandemic,” Bill Demchak, president, chairman and CEO of PNC, said in a press release. “The challenges all of us face at this time are unprecedented, and PNC is making these adjustments to help keep our customers and employees safe.”

Shift hasn’t been seamless for everyone
For some banks and credit unions, the pivot away from in-branch services hasn’t been too problematic, as they never lost sight of the importance of drive-up equipment. Others, however, have been more susceptible to community brake pumping on drive-up initiatives due to air pollution or retail aesthetic concerns. Indeed, some towns have gone so far as to issue moratoria on building new drive-thrus, CBS News reported. As a result, local financial institutions may have let drive-up upgrades and maintenance sit on the back-burner. Now, faced with escalating demands, these banks and credit unions are increasingly turning to their vendor partners to bring them back up to speed.

Better to be prepared, than not. After all, consumers in need of banking services can find options should their own institutions fail to support their drive-up needs. Banks like Synovus are increasingly accommodating non-customers with check cashing and other services in their lanes.

“More banks are providing certain services to non-customers.”

Expanded Service at the Drive-Up Window
Notably, a number of institutions are countering the lack of lobby availability by really expanding their menu of drive-thru services. These services include check cashing, cash advances, money orders and official checks, according to the American Bankers Association. It, however, even goes well beyond that to where some customers are turning in their mortgage refinancing or loan paperwork via the deal drawer.

With the increased reliance on limited drive-thru staff, many are touting the benefits of having a cash recycler on hand to accelerate transaction processes and shorten the line. This is where institutions of all sizes are looking to equipment like the LTA-350 for  much needed support.

Times like these – in the financial world and elsewhere – require everyone to bring their “A” game. At BranchServ, our foremost mission is to serve you – however and wherever you need it. Whether you’re looking to revive your drive-thru with the proper equipment, install a cash recycler or are seeking guidance on how this ordeal will ultimately affect your operations post-crisis, we’re here to help. Please contact us today and stay strong.