Future banks: No more teller windows and ATMs

Bank sign on building

What will the bank of the future look like? Chances are, it won't have the two main features most of us use today: a teller window and an ATM.

That's the prediction of Jerome Svigals, director of the Smart Card Institute consulting firm in Redwood City, Calif., and the author of Retail Bank 2020.

By the time Justin Bieber turns 36 (OK, 2030, if you must know), Svigals says we'll all be banking by smartphone.

Not only will widespread smartphone use have eliminated the need for most face-to-face transactions, it will have killed off paper checks, currency, coins, and credit and debit cards.

Those fees that banks now charge for check, currency, card and coin handling, and security will be a distant memory. Automated change makers, bill counters and ATMs all will have gone the way of cassette tapes, 2D TV -- and probably Bieber's career.

But bank branches will survive, says Svigals, just not in the form we know today. In fact, if his guess is correct, the lobby coffee should improve dramatically.

Once smartphone banking frees us from the cumbersome, not to mention unhygienic, need to tote around currency, coins and cards, banks will free their tellers and retrain them into marketing reps to nurture the customer relationship.

Hey, who's ready for a refill?

In Svigals' view, the teller 2.0 would be sort of like that one tolerable salesperson at Best Buy. Their duties "will include introducing bank products with smartphone demonstrations. Also, they will offer customers a selection of downloadable smartphone applications for everything from routine transactions to mortgages and other loans (with terms and other options) to fund transfers."

Their real purpose, of course, will be to build what Svigals calls your "personal profile database," a system designed to make you feel warm and fuzzy about your new, weird Best Buy-like bank.

As you leave with your free donut, tellers will be filling your data file with crib notes like your native language, your eyesight (so they can offer you their Droid bank app in LARGE PRINT!) and your dog's name for use next time you drop by.

"The economics of the smartphone-based bank will be very attractive to management," Svigals writes.

Which is exactly what a bank consultant's clients love to hear these days.

I agree with Svigals' vision to a point. I'm convinced we will see the demise of at least paper checks, coins and plastic, and with it all that expensive infrastructure.

But the friendly, free-range, Starbucks-serving teller 2.0? That's not happening. No one's going to need a bank app by then, Starbucks will be available as an inhalant and there will be a Wendy's working out of my bank's old drive-up window.

Once I don't have to go to a bank -- and that day is already here for remote deposit capture first adopters -- nothing short of free Lotto tickets is going to convince me to step foot in one again.

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