Farmers National Bank has announced the opening of its new, digitally focused retail office dubbed the Lab Branch that embodies the Canfield-based community bank’s efforts to evolve into tech-enabled services.
The Lab Branch opened July 13 in the bank’s hometown at 4538 Boardman-Canfield Road and “features all of the bank’s emerging technology and customer service initiatives in one convenient location for customers to test out,” according to a news release.
The digital evolution in financial services has been playing out for decades. The closure of bank lobbies amid the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated banks’ digital transformations and banking initiatives even further.
The Lab Branch is a culmination of those trends materializing with a smaller bank in Farmers. Smaller banks’ digital transformations tend to come some time after refinement by larger companies that have the scale and resources to take more gambles and either acquire or develop tech in house.
The new Farmers location will be led by branch manager Ricardo Cruz and includes a “team of video tellers who can virtually help customers with their banking needs via Interactive Teller Machines (ITM) in the lobby, vestibule and a two lane drive-thru,” according to the bank. The branch also includes a large video wall.
“With the Lab Branch, we took a traditional bank branch concept and completely reimagined it with a focus on digital innovations and customer experience,” said Amber Wallace, executive vice president and chief retail and marketing officer for Farmers, in a statement. “We were able to create a one-of-a-kind banking experience that our customers have never seen before.”
The Lab Branch provides an environment for Farmers to “test out new customer service and technology initiatives and gain feedback on the experience. The insights gained from this branch will aid in the rolling out of new technologies and services bank wide,” according to the bank.
Farmers, founded in 1887, has about $2.7 billion in banking assets and 41 locations spanning Northeast Ohio and a sliver of Northwest Pennsylvania.
Farmers appears to be the top community bank lender in Northeast Ohio in the Paycheck Protection Program, according to a Crain’s analysis, funding at least 1,596 PPP loans in the market (81% for less than $150,000) as of Small Business Administration data through June 30.