Question for a new generation of Huntington bankers:
“Where are the canned tomatoes?”

Question for a new generation of Huntington bankers:
“Where are the canned tomatoes?”

 

Beginning in the mid-1980s and into the 1990s, banks saw in-store branches as a cost-effective way to expand beyond brick-and-mortar locations and serve a too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time-to-do-it generation of customers.

Beginning in the mid-1980s and into the 1990s, banks saw in-store branches as a cost-effective way to expand beyond brick-and-mortar locations and serve a too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time-to-do-it generation of customers.

But many of the minibanks, which handled little more than the most basic transactions, proved unprofitable. They began disappearing as quickly as they’d once multiplied; from 2009 to 2014, their number fell by 12 percent.1 Meanwhile, Huntington committed to long-term partnerships with major retailers in two states, raising a question: Why?

Huntington was not ignoring the challenges of making in-store branches profitable. Instead, the bank had determined a better way to run these branches and identified a new kind of employee to operate them.

Beginning in 2010 at more than 100 Giant Eagle grocery stores throughout Ohio2 and in 2012 at a similar number of Meijer grocery stores in Michigan,3 Huntington opened seven-day-a-week, full-service branches. Unlike the earliest in-store branches, which might include some teller’s windows and perhaps a desk, the newest Huntington locations include private meeting spaces, where bankers and customers can transact simple business and discuss complicated products like auto loans.4

Staffing has been handled differently, too. To connect with millennials, Huntington selected employees who are comfortable working within a technology-driven banking system that emphasizes bringing in new customers. These workers step out from behind a desk or teller’s window to engage with patrons directly, in some cases helping comb through grocery lists to hunt down elusive items. In effect, Huntington’s staff becomes an extension of the store’s personnel.5

As of 2015, the approach appeared to be paying off. Huntington’s in-store branches attracted 30 percent of the bank’s new customers, though the Giant Eagle and Meijer locations accounted for only 17 percent of Huntington’s network.6

“We become the friendly banker who is out in the store a lot,” Huntington Retail and Business Banking Director Mary Navarro said. “People are willing to give us a chance because they like (the Huntington employees) and the convenience.”7

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Huntington’s in-store branches at Giant Eagle stores and Meijer stores attract a large percentage of the bank’s new customers.

 

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A Huntington ATM inside a Giant Eagle store.