Bank Watch

BofA, a pioneer in offering drive-through service, now cuts it

Commercial National Bank, which is Bank of America’s original Charlotte-based predecessor bank, was the first in North Carolina to offer a drive-through branch, according to Bank of America’s website. The image above shows a Commercial National Bank drive-through branch at 135 W. Morehead St.
Commercial National Bank, which is Bank of America’s original Charlotte-based predecessor bank, was the first in North Carolina to offer a drive-through branch, according to Bank of America’s website. The image above shows a Commercial National Bank drive-through branch at 135 W. Morehead St.

Since becoming CEO of Bank of America in 2010, Brian Moynihan has touted the bank’s roots to Commercial National Bank, founded in Charlotte in 1874.

But by closing drive-through teller lanes at some branches, Moynihan is erasing one of Commercial National’s claims to fame.

This week, I reported that Bank of America plans to eliminate drive-through service at its Myers Park branch, which joins other Bank of America branches in Charlotte and elsewhere where the service has also been cut.

Bank of America has cited low customer demand for the lanes as it closes them. Those closures also come in an era when consumers are conducting a rising amount of transactions online instead of inside branches.

Even as it discontinues the service, the bank still touts on its website how Commercial National opened the first drive-through bank in North Carolina.

“The bank would be the first bank in the region to install automated commercial teller machines, offer the first drive-in branch in North Carolina, and market to Charlotte’s growing suburban population,” Bank of America’s website says.

Commercial National has also made an appearance in at least one speech by Moynihan. He mentioned the bank in remarks he gave in Raleigh in January 2010, the same month he replaced Ken Lewis as CEO.

Citing Commercial National, Moynihan said in his speech that Bank of America and its predecessor companies have “been working to help build the North Carolina economy for close to 136 years.”

Bank of America has been ending drive-through service since at least 2013. That got me wondering whether other banks have started doing the same.

Ken Thomas, a branch-location consultant based in Miami, told me that it remains unusual for a bank to close drive-through lanes.

“Certainly, other banks are not doing that,” he said.

Banks are more likely to shut down the lobby and keep drive-through lanes open, rather than the other way around, he said.

Thomas said drive-through lanes are widely used by small-business customers, who usually make multiple trips in a single day to branches as they deposit cash from their business. Those customers would feel less secure if they had to walk cash into a branch, he said.

“Banks that cater to small businesses usually will never touch those drive-though lanes,” he said.

As more consumers choose to bank on their smartphones and other devices, it’s likely Bank of America will make more cuts to drive-through service.

And the bank that played a role in giving the world drive-through teller lanes could continue to be a major player in taking them away.

Roberts: 704-358-5248;

Twitter: @DeonERoberts

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