Reality Check: Where is the future of banks headed?

Photo credit: Justin Baeder / CC BY 2.0 / MGN

There are thousands of bank branches all across the United States, but when was the last time you actually visited one?

With a push towards online banking, many companies are having to make major changes.

Back in September, Wells Fargo CEO, Tim Sloan, announced in a news release that the company plans to cut roughly 26,000 jobs over the next three years, a five to ten percent cut of its current workforce of people.

Here in the mountains, many local businesses are learning to adapt to the new ways of banking.

Margo Lea owns Woodlands Gallery in downtown Hendersonville.

To make her shop run as smooth as it does, Lea says it's important to work with a bank she can trust.

"It just makes your life easier," she said.

And sometimes more convenient. It's one of the many reasons Lea chooses to do most of her banking online.

"I cut checks at the end of every month for all my consignment pieces just digitally through the bank and it's easy to track it," said Lea.

She didn't always feel this way though.

"I was hesitant to use it to begin with because it was something new," she admits.

But, once she figured out how it all works, Lea says it's almost a necessity in running her local business.

"I think it fits my lifestyle better because, being the sole proprietor here, I'm gone a lot and I have a lot of things I need to do and focus on," said Lea.

Across town, at the garden center, A Growing Concern, owner Chuck Carter says it hasn't been as easy for him to adjust to banking in the 21st century.

"I like it when I can walk in a bank and they knew who I am and greet me," Carter said.

Something he feels we're seeing less of in banking now-a-days.

"There is no personal relationships in 90 percent of the big banks. It's just a number and the charges and the fees have just gone crazy," he said.

Edwards realizes online is where everything's headed, and he's slowly starting to figure out how this whole online banking thing works.

Still, he finds it is a bit worrisome, especially when it comes to keeping his money and personal information safe.

"There doesn't seem to be any security that's totally 100 percent," Edwards said.

Banks, like Wells Fargo, say they understand the concerns from customers.

"We have a technology team dedicated to security and safety with all of our products and services and as technology continues to evolve, so does our security area," said Karen Lambert, Regional Bank President for the Western Atlantic Region of Wells Fargo.

Lambert's been with the company for 35 years and has seen first-hand the evolution of banking.

"I've seen a lot of change from an almost completely manual process with our customers requiring them to come into branches for anything that they need to do, to a really digital based experience in banking," added Lambert.

According to a spokesperson, right now, Wells Fargo has approximately 5,700 branches.

In the next two years, the company anticipates that number dropping to 5,000.

As a result, thousands of employees will lose jobs.

"There are definitely efficiencies associated with digital technology. When the customer chooses to use an online service or some sort of digital service that we provide, there certainly is an efficiency when you take a team member out of that scenario," said Lambert.

Looking ahead though, Lambert doesn't think the actual bank buildings themselves will be going anywhere.

"I think our brick and mortar piece of our business will remain in tact in the communities and locations where our customers continue to seek us," Lambert said.


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