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Banks Move to More Automation

Self-banking is likely to grow, as technological advances pave the way for robo-banks.
February 10, 2017

​DENVER – Self-service has become ubiquitous in society today with self-driving cars, self-serve gasoline pumps and self-checkout lines at grocery stores. While ATMs have been around for a while, Bank of America is taking self-service even further by opening mini, robo-banks, the Washington Post reports. The three tiny branches, which have ATMs and video-conferencing capabilities but no actual human beings, opened in Minneapolis and Denver (two locations).

“This is the beginning of the end of the American bank branch,” said Peter Fitzgerald, who founded Chain Bridge Bank. “Bank branches are dead. They were killed by the iPhone. It’s like the horseshoe when the automobile came along.”

A Bank of America spokesperson said that in-person tellers aren’t going away. Anne Pace estimated that a million people daily walk into a Bank of America branch and discuss banking needs with employees. Those who use the new robo-banks “can have a one-on-one conversation to get a mortgage, plan for retirement, open a small business or get a car loan,” she said. “This is just a test. We haven’t rolled these out extensively. We are going to see how these go, see what we learn and make a decision from there.”

“Cash is dying out,” Fitzgerald said. “Many millennials don’t carry cash. They only use their debit card. In 2011 and 2012, bank branch traffic dropped precipitously. The last I checked, 98.5% of our bank’s transactions are done online and electronically.”

Fitzgerald isn’t the only one to predict the demise of cash. A September 2016 study predicted that plastic purchases would outpace cash, while the head of point-of-sale system Revel forecasted that cash is on its way out.