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Posted: Wednesday, 11 June 2014 4:40AM

New Orleans area banks move to more automation

Banks in the metro New Orleans area seem to be phasing out tellers, and phasing in smaller branches with advanced automated teller machines.

They're called 'pod' branches.

Tulane business professor Mark Rosa says customers will be able to do more at a pod than they can at an automatic teller machine.

"They can turn to the pod to do something that's a little bit more dimensional than a traditional ATM. I think that the pod is going to handle transfers and maybe loan applications and things that can be taken electronically."

Meanwhile, fewer employees will be needed to assist customers with more complicated transactions beyond withdrawals and deposits.

"The banks can turn their attention to somebody really needing help with more dimensional transactions...opening accounts, those types of things. That's where I think they're putting their people. And for the simpler things, they're installing the technology."

Rosa says it's something that's been coming since the 70s.

"I think there's been downward pressure on that for a long time. The ATM, when introduced, really was trying to take transactional type of business outside of the branch to a convenient location, round the clock."

He says it's largely a cost-cutting, efficiency move.

"Usually the biggest cost for a business is personnel, and they're trying to place downward pressure on that by replacing it with technology."

And he says fewer tellers won't be the only cost reductions, "but also security, insurance and so on."
Chase Bank is the latest to use the technology at a new branch it recently opened in Algiers.

Liberty Bank and Trust, Metairie Bank and Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank have built similar facilities or are planning them with future branches. Gulf Coast Bank and Trust is also transitioning to bank branches with fewer tellers. And, Liberty Bank is said to be considering a decrease or elimination of teller windows for its new branch in Gentilly.

Customers will likely be seeing the pods at branches throughout New Orleans, following a national trend.

So, is the teller a thing of the past?

"I think that it's just not going to be called that anymore, " Rosa says. "You'll have customer service reps or business service reps and that title of 'teller' may be going away."


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