Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

What Makes a Good Branch? (Editor's Column)

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

What Makes a Good Branch? (Editor's Column)

Article excerpt

IT'S ALWAYS REFRESHING TO hear a simple, straightforward statement from someone who knows what he's talking about. Such was the case when we heard John Kanas speak as part of a panel on retail banking at a recent New York Bankers Association conference.

Regarding branches, Kanas said: "Branches are either a raging success or a failure-hardly anything in between. It's the people that make the difference. If you put top performers in a new branch, it will be a success."

If you don't know him, Kanas is CEO of North Fork Bancorp, Melville, N. Y., which he grew from a modest community bank based on the eastern end of New York's Long Island into a $21 billion, 171-branch bank, now going head to head with the giants in New York City.

His observation means that while location, design, and support systems are important, nothing is so important as the people you put in the branch. A branch by definition is a people place. If the people working there are clueless, have an "attitude," push product without considering what the customer needs, or are sloppy and disorganized, that branch is going to flop.

Referencing the fact that 260 new branches have recently opened in Manhattan on top of the 300 already there, Kanas predicted there will be a lot of "disasters" among this crowded field. Yet North Fork has been one of the banks opening those 260 branches. How does Kanas justify his prediction? "Manhattan is not overbanked," he observed, "it is under served."

Even allowing for some obvious tweaking of rivals' noses in that statement, his point is valid. If you had four branches within a few blocks of each other, it is certain that not all four would do equally well. …

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