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Bank of America tests totally automated, employee-free branches

Bank of America is testing employee-less branches in three locations. No word, yet, on whether they will come to Tampa Bay when 50 to 60 of the completely automated locations open over the next year.
[Times file photo]

Published Feb. 9, 2017

Bank of America Corp has opened three completely automated branches over the past month, where customers can use ATMs and have video conferences with employees at other branches.

Like many U.S. banks in recent years, Bank of America has been reducing its overall branch count to cut costs even as it opens new branches in select markets. New branches are typically smaller, employ more technology, and are aimed at selling mortgages, credit cards and auto loans rather than simple transactions such as cashing checks.

Bank spokeswoman Anne Pace said there is one completely automated branch in Minneapolis and one in Denver, both of which are relatively new markets for the bank's consumer business. They are about a quarter of the size of a typical branch.

The new branches were mentioned briefly Tuesday by Dean Athanasia, co-head of Bank of America's consumer banking unit, during a question and answer session at an investor conference, but he did not provide details.

Athanasia said Bank of America will open 50 to 60 new branches over the next year, though Pace said the bank will also be closing branches in certain markets, so the 50 to 60 branches do not represent a net increase. Bank of America opened 31 new branches in 2016.

Pace said she had no details on whether Tampa Bay or Florida will be among the locations targeted for a people-less branch.

There are "no further details on where we will add additional centers," she said. "This is a test in three centers only at this point. We will evaluate the customer response and determine next steps from there."

The megabank has 90 financial centers in its Tampa Bay market, which includes Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties.

Bank of America had 4,579 financial centers at the end of the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to 4,726 in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 5,900 at the end of 2010.

Times staff writer Alli Knothe contributed to this report.

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