Bank Watch

Bank of America customers complain about fewer tellers

People enter the Marriott SouthPark prior to Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting on May 6, 2015.
People enter the Marriott SouthPark prior to Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting on May 6, 2015. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

There might seem to be little love for tellers these days, as banks slash the positions at a time when a growing number of transactions are being conducted on smartphones and other devices.

But comments made at Bank of America’s annual shareholders meeting in Charlotte last week show that some customers aren’t pleased to see tellers going away.

During the meeting, shareholder Robert Henry, of Greensboro, complained to CEO Brian Moynihan that he encountered long lines at Bank of America branches during visits in recent weeks.

“I went in one of our busiest branches,” Henry said. “They had one teller on the inside, one teller on the drive-in, and the line was out of the door.”

“I went to another branch: Same thing.”

Henry told Moynihan that he retired from Bank of America in March after working for the company for more than 40 years. He asked Moynihan if the bank is out to “run all our customers away, send them over to the credit unions?”

Moynihan, who thanked Henry for his service to the bank, told him that the company is measuring the lines in its branches “at all times” to determine how many tellers they need.

But Moynihan also pointed out that Bank of America’s customers are changing they way they conduct transactions thanks to new technology that allows them to bank without stepping foot into a branch.

For example, Bank of America did not have mobile-banking customers 10 years ago, Moynihan said.

“We have 17 million of them now,” he said.

As its customers change their behavior, the bank has to make sure it is meeting their evolving needs, Moynihan said.

“The basic principle is we’re trying to make sure that we stay with the clients who have changed their behavior dramatically,” he said.

Henry wasn’t the only customer upset over the idea of fewer tellers.

I interviewed Stanley Kelkey, an 80-year-old Charlotte resident, after he walked out of the shareholders meeting.

Kelkey said he’s noticed a drop in tellers at his Bank of America branch in recent years.

He said as the bank trimmed tellers, it put one of its new automated teller machines in the branch. The ATM allows customers to talk, via video screen, with a teller who is in a call center.

“I don’t like that,” Kelkey said.

Roberts: 704-358-5248;

Twitter: @DeonERoberts

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