Trailblazer: Anderson Brothers Bank

Bryan Lenertz (left), Horry County executive, and David Anderson, president, both of Anderson Brothers Bank, stand outside the bank’s North Myrtle Beach, S.C., location. Photo: Megan Parker

Anderson Brothers Bank may have been founded in 1933, but its approach to branch design is pure 21st century.

By Ed Avis

Name: Anderson Brothers Bank
Assets: $740 million
Location: Mullins, S.C.
abbank.com


When customers walk into the new Anderson Brothers Bank branch in Myrtle Beach, S.C., they enter an environment designed to engage. From a warm greeting at the door to a centrally located “technology bar,” the community bank branch surrounds customers with convenience and congeniality.

“When you walk into nearly every bank in the country, you approach a solid-wall teller line and do your business and leave,” says Bryan Lenertz, Horry County executive of the $740 million-asset community bank.

“That’s not at all engaging. So we decided to try something that gives a better feeling to the customer and creates a better customer experience. We’re trying to build a relationship and not just conduct a transaction.” The idea to create a different banking experience emerged about three years ago, Lenertz says. The community bank wanted to expand in Myrtle Beach, but competition is heavy in that community, so leadership knew they needed something to differentiate themselves.

Quick stat

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Anderson Brothers Bank tellers and customer service reps being trained as universal employees

The “open concept”—which eschews the typical teller line for a more free-flowing, customer-centric environment—seemed like a good idea. “No other bank in the area was doing that,” Lenertz says. “We wanted customers to say, ‘I got a different experience at Anderson Brothers Bank.’”

The new branch, called the Market Common branch, opened in 2017. Another branch in Myrtle Beach with the open concept is under construction and will open next spring, and the bank’s older North Myrtle Beach location will be renovated to accommodate the concept later.

Key to the concept are what the bank calls its universal employees, who are cross-trained in all of the traditional teller and customer service skills. A universal employee greets each customer as he or she enters the bank and asks what kind of transaction the person is seeking to complete. If it’s something normally done in a teller line, the employee handles the transaction while the customer sips a coffee. Or if the customer wants to apply for a loan, the universal employee walks him or her to the appropriate desk.

Bryan Lenertz demonstrates Ella the Teller.

A different kind of bar

Bank customers who prefer a more high-tech experience can head straight to the bank’s “technology bar.”

“The technology bar is a very beautiful wooden bar in the middle of the lobby that has a couple of iPads on it, so if the customer has to get onto our website or mobile app, they can do it there,” explains Tamra Cannon, chief retail officer. “The in-lobby automated teller is at the end of the technology bar, and folks can use that if they want to. And on the other end of the bar is a fancy-dancy coffee machine, which makes everything from regular coffee to cappuccino.”

Another feature of the open concept is the bank’s use of teller pods, which have replaced the teller wall. Two universal employees work in each pod, and a cash recycler sits between them. The tellers can handle transactions from the lobby or the drive-through.

“The pods face into the lobby, but four feet behind them are the drive-through tubes,” Lenertz says. “So the tellers can turn around and grab the [capsules]. We eliminated the drive-through window. Instead, there are video monitors that show the driver, so the tellers can engage with them.”

Even drive-through customers can choose between interacting with a live teller or technology, since the first lane of the drive-through at the Myrtle Beach location leads to an interactive teller machine (ITM). The ITM does what a normal ATM does, with the added feature of a video monitor connected to the bank’s call center. “You can press a button if you need help with a transaction or if you simply want someone to do it for you,” Cannon says.

Online and onsite training

All tellers and customer service representatives in Anderson Brothers Bank’s 23 branches are being trained as universal employees, regardless of whether their branch is open concept or traditional, Cannon says.

The training is a combination of online courses and onsite training. It is divided into two modules: CSR 1, which lasts three days and covers maintenance tasks such as ordering checks; and CSR 2, which lasts a week and includes more advanced skills, such as opening accounts.

“Once they’ve gone through the training, they can do anything typically needed in a branch,” Cannon says. “We have approximately 70 tellers and 22 CSRs, and out of them, only 25 have not yet completed the CSR 1 level training.”

Since the universal employees can handle all the normal banking tasks, the branches can use fewer employees, Lenertz says.

We’re saving money and giving a better customer experience.”
—Bryan Lenertz, Anderson Brothers Bank

“A typical bank will have three tellers and one CSR,” he says. “Since all of the universal employees can do the teller job or the CSR job, we can operate with three instead of four. So we’re saving money and giving a better customer experience.”

Positive response

Do customers like the new concept? “They love it,” says David Anderson, the bank’s president and third-generation shareholder. “They love banking there, and it gets noticed. The concept makes us stand out in the market, and that’s what we set out to do.”

Lenertz agrees: “We are trying to be as customer-centric as possible, and be the best at technology as possible. One of the neat things about the concept is the energy given off. There are people who don’t bank with us who just walk in because they want to see it.”


Ed Avis is a writer in Illinois.

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