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Apr 29, 2020
Jack Neu

We do not have a crystal ball or be able to see into the future, but what we do know is that financial institutions, and how they function and interact with customers/members, will have some changes going forward. Yet we want to retain the best part of community based financial institutions – community interaction and support. We are likely to see changes in how spaces are configured and a greater reliance on technology to help maintain the personal touch of customer relationships Some of these changes may be easy to accomplish, but other items, particularly implementing technology, may take a while longer and may disrupt the way we work with customers forever.

 

Design Changes

 

Some of these changes are readily available to do now, others may be a more long-term solution.  Putting up sneeze guards and spreading out those who interact with customers may be accomplished without much physical change. One of the changes we see going forward is the specifying of interior antimicrobial coatings that can be placed or added to products such as flooring, door hardware, faucets, paint, hard surfaces, and furniture. You might also see more use of materials that are by nature inherently more antimicrobial like copper.

There may be a change in teller line or teller pod design. The usual Pods or teller positions can be modified to increase space between the tellers and between the customers and staff.

Lately our designers have installed lobbies with more open space which now can be used to support social distancing requirements and interactions with other customers. We may also see a continued uptick in the use of glass to give the space more openness but allow tellers/management a clear view of transactions and customer interactions.

Although they have been around for decades, drive-through lanes have become a way to offer contactless transactions in response to the pandemic.  A great number of banks have closed their lobbies and shifted all transactions to drive-throughs to continue serving customers safely.  Although the drive-throughs have been a life saver for financial institutions during these times, it might be time to rethink drive-throughs and add two way video capabilities if you do not have them to make the drive-throughs be even more personal and allow that remote face-to-face personal transaction.

 

Another design feature that we do not employ regularly now could enjoy a resurgence: the walk-up window. We have deployed these in areas with high foot traffic or with no location to put a drive thru. This allows the customer to complete any transaction but does not require them to come into the building.

 

We know there have been some use of “stickers” on the floor to show how far customers need to stay apart from each other to maintain correct physical distancing.  But why not make it part of the design!!  With creative design inspired uses of carpet tiles and other flooring materials you could create those same type of conventions, just make sure it becomes a true part of the design and not just an add-on.

 

Technology

 

We also will see an increase in the use of Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) that allow almost all teller transactions through an electronic system that employs video communication and all functions are controlled by the teller. This reduces exposure to others yet still allows for customer interaction and less handling of cash by bank or credit union personnel. These can also be deployed into vestibules and walk-ups that would reduce human-to-human contact. There are also new products that allow for sanitation of screens and buttons on ATMs/ITMs that can render them bacterial and virus free for up to 90 days, and then can be reapplied.

 

One enhancement we have added for several customers is video communication between staff and customers. Usually housed in a board room or large office these systems allow your personnel to do a loan application, open an account, purchase insurance, etc. from the comfort of their home or office.  Combine that with e-signature technology and you eliminate the customer having to come in for those types of transactions. You will also see wider use of video teller systems and cash recyclers.

We know that touch screens on equipment in financial institutions can be a source of germs.  New sprays that last up to 90 days can be used on keypads and other touchpoints to make sure they do not continually harbor bacteria and viruses.  It is reapplied after that time frame to continue to offer germ free equipment.

 

The installation of different HVAC systems that bring more fresh air to the inside to create a better mix with interior air and stronger exhaust systems to draw out the inside air will become commonplace. They will also equip those systems with new/more efficient filters that can screen out smaller particles.

 

We will see many more changes and developments over the next few months or years with many of them an extension of designs or products or technology that are already in place and used by many institutions. We may not easily ascertain what other safety designs/technology that will be introduced, we just know things will be different from how we do things now.