The nation’s biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has opened its first branch in the Twin Cities, giving it the digital-age look that is proliferating across banking — part living room and part coffee shop — and adding an element of theater.
Tellers at the Minneapolis branch, at 606 SE. Washington Av. next to the University of Minnesota, are hidden behind scrims that rise into the ceiling. They are revealed only when really needed.
Chase executives and designers are hoping to train customers that nearly all forms of banking can be done digitally now. They believe that removing the visual cue of teller desks and a line for tellers will change habits.
“It really is to de-emphasize the teller line and get customers to focus on all the digital options that are out there,” said Jonathan Jensen, market director of consumer banking in the Twin Cities for Chase.
“Some customers are going to come in and they’re going to want to see someone for a transaction. We have that capacity,” Jensen said. “But some people don’t know how easily something can be done without the tellers.”
JPMorgan Chase plans to open 25 branches in the Twin Cities over the next five years, executives said Wednesday. One on Grand Avenue in St. Paul is next, followed by one near the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park. Each will have eight to 10 employees, a typical number for existing Chase branches elsewhere, executives said.
Chase has had a commercial bank in downtown Minneapolis since 2005 and now has 10 bankers there who serve midsize companies, those with at least $20 million in annual revenue, and larger.
Coming off a six-year government restriction on its growth, JPMorgan Chase over the last two years has pushed to expand its branch presence, now in 28 states. Until the opening last week of the branch at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul was the largest market where Chase didn’t have one.
Bank of America, the second-largest bank, has built 21 branches in the Twin Cities since 2015 and opened a commercial bank here. The company said earlier this year that it would add seven more branches in the next two years.
Banking in Minnesota is dominated by Wells Fargo, the nation’s No. 4 bank, and U.S. Bank, the Minneapolis-based firm that is No. 5 nationally. The country’s third-largest bank, Citigroup, has a small presence in the state.
Just as it was preparing for retail banking in the Twin Cities, Chase also opened a small-business unit in the same Minneapolis office as the commercial bank. As a result, Chase now has the capability to lend to businesses from startup size to large enterprise, said David Rudolph, region manager for Chase in Minnesota and the Dakotas. “We have a home for any business-size client,” Rudolph said.
He said the branches will bring more awareness to the Chase brand and help attract customers to the commercial and business operations.
“It demonstrates a commitment to Minnesota and the metro area,” Rudolph said. “On my side of the house, it allows us to change the narrative a little bit in the sense that we’re doing a lot more than just working with some of the large companies in the market.”
Chase is stepping up its marketing and philanthropic activities in the Twin Cities as well. It recently debuted a local market website and sponsored summer activities at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul. The company will conduct a ribbon-cutting and opening event for the new branch on Aug. 29, the same week that students return to the U for the fall semester.
Across the country, banks are adjusting to consumers’ growing use of websites and mobile apps for banking by downsizing their offices and shrinking the number of branches. U.S. Bank, for instance, this year began an overhaul to its 3,000-unit branch network that involves closings, remodelings and new construction. The result will be about 10% to 15% fewer units by early 2021.
In their entry to the Twin Cities, Bank of America and Chase have been able to lease smaller spaces and optimize them for lower volume of branch visitors. At the branch on Washington, Chase customers encounter couches, a coffee bar, ATMs, restaurant-style booths and private offices to discuss their money.
“It’s a leg up to be able to build from scratch and build branches that cater to how people bank today,” Jensen said.