File -- U.S. Bank opened a branch at the U in 2003

Mike Zerby, Star Tribune

When you need to see a banker -- stat!

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS
  • Star Tribune
  • February 13, 2012 - 11:45 PM

Banks have put branches in many new kinds of locations to be where their customers are -- malls, community centers, supermarkets, college campuses and airports.

Now, U.S. Bank is pushing into unorthodox territory: hospitals.

The Minneapolis-based bank is opening a full-service branch inside Hennepin County Medical Center, a major trauma center in downtown Minneapolis.

The branch, the bank's first hospital location in the state, continues an aggressive push into nontraditional locations. About 844 of U.S. Bank's 3,805 retail branches, or nearly one-quarter, are considered nontraditional -- tucked into grocery stores, colleges and corporate office campuses for companies such as Sprint and Dell.

The bank even has a branch at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

Daniel Hoke, U.S. Bancorp's senior vice president in charge of on-site banking, said the bank seeks out these sorts of locations because they work.

"What our customers are telling us is they see real value in convenience," Hoke said. "We've had a five-year expansion effort to really pick up the speed and the pace."

The 425-square-foot HCMC office, due to open March 12, will be on the skyway level where the "purple" clinic connects to the "red" hospital building. U.S. Bank will be courting the more than 6,000 employees, including physicians, who work at the public hospital.

The bank is pursuing nontraditional locations much more aggressively than most rivals. Nationally, such branches make up just 13 percent of all bank branches, according to the financial services research firm Aite Group in Boston.

While U.S. Bank is already in eight other hospitals around the country, the terrain is still something of a novelty in the banking world, said David Albertazzi, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

Credit unions have opened branches in hospitals, he said, mainly because many of those employees are members. But it's not an area banks have aggressively pursued, Albertazzi said.

Wells Fargo & Co., the state's top bank by deposits, does not have any hospital branches in Minnesota. A spokeswoman couldn't immediately determine Monday whether it had any such branches elsewhere.

Wayzata-based TCF Financial, which is also big on nontraditional locations, particularly supermarkets, didn't return phone calls Monday.

Nontraditional branches have mixed reviews in terms of their ability to attract new customers, Albertazzi said. "A lot of foot traffic in a trauma center? I don't know," he said.

Hoke said that in general U.S. Bank targets high-density locations near established branches. Sometimes, it springboards off its existing commercial banking relationships. HCMC, for instance, has been a major U.S. Bank client.

A hospital spokesman said U.S. Bank is the hospital's primary bank, and that it sees the bank branch as a major convenience for its workers and visitors.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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