PNC opens redesigned branches in Charlotte region

PNC Bank has brought its “universal branch” concept to Charlotte, becoming the latest lender to overhaul its branches amid the rising popularity of online banking and declining foot traffic to teller lines.

This week, the Pittsburgh-based bank finished its conversion of a branch in Monroe and another in Charlotte’s University City area. The changes inside the branches include the addition of PNC’s new automated teller machines, tablet devices and computers – all of which allow customers to do many banking activities on their own.

“All of this has been done because our clients’ preferences have changed. We want to make sure we can cater to everyone,” said Shirley Edmond, regional manager for PNC’s Western Carolina operation, which includes Charlotte.

The two branches are the first in the Charlotte area to be switched to PNC’s new format. Nationwide, the lender has converted about 45 branches in 15 states, including elsewhere in the Carolinas. PNC said 115 more U.S. branches are in the midst of being converted this month.

PNC’s modifications come as other lenders consider how best to use branches at a time when their consumers are able to conduct a growing amount of transactions on their own, using their computers and smartphones. As they experiment, some banks are opening branches that are smaller, have fewer employees and are cheaper to operate than traditional branches.

PNC chief executive William Demchak, speaking at a banking conference in New York on Wednesday, said PNC’s converted branches typically have one fewer employee than before the conversion.

Bank of America unveiled a smaller type of branch called an “express center” last year. The express centers have no tellers. Instead, they are equipped with new Bank of America ATMs that allow customers to talk via a video screen to tellers in call centers in Delaware and Florida.

Banks have also been closing and selling branches in recent years as they seek to cut costs at a time of weak revenue growth.

PNC had 2,691 branches as of the end of September, according to a securities filing. That’s down by 196 branches from the same time two years ago.

Demchak said the bank will be focused less on closing branches now and more on converting them to the “universal branch” model.

The converted branches in the Charlotte region are at 230 E. W.T. Harris Blvd. and 1730 S. Dickerson Blvd. in Monroe. Even with the self-service features, the branches continue to be staffed with bankers who will provide traditional services such as opening accounts, cashing checks and answering questions.

PNC Financial Services Group entered Charlotte by acquiring RBC Bank’s Raleigh-based U.S. business in 2012. In the Charlotte metropolitan area, it is 12th for market share among banks.