Maybe branches aren’t dying. But the means by which customers access the branch might be changing.
What if a financial institution could deliver all the banking transactions that customers can’t do online right to their front door?
One bank in Virginia, Primis Bank, asked that question in 2021, and nearly a year later their hybrid mobile-physical product, called V1BE, is proving it can be done.
It’s a new take on banking, following inspiration from innovative customer experience giants like Amazon. To Teresa Rios, it seems strange more financial institutions haven’t gotten on the bandwagon and tried meeting customers where they’re at — literally — especially in a post-pandemic world.
“I get everything delivered,” says Rios, Director of V1BE and Senior Vice President at Primis. “I get my groceries through delivery. ”
The inspiration for an app-powered banking delivery service came from Primis Bank’s CEO Dennis Zember. He saw how Covid drastically slowed foot traffic, but just because people started coming into the branch less often didn’t necessarily mean everyone was eager to bank digitally. Or that they had the capability to do so.
“We surveyed a lot of our customers and found out not everybody is ready to go completely digital,” says Rios. Having the ability to get their hands on traditional bank products and services, but at their convenience is so appealing.”
Primis’ solution was to develop the Primis V1BE banking app, which enables customers to arrange to have banking services delivered right to their door, or wherever they need it — both delivery and pickup.
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Where ‘Doorstep Banking’ Came From
The idea of delivering banking service right to people’s front step isn’t a wholly new idea. Other institutions — such as HDFC, State Bank of India (SBI) and Axis Bank — have all sampled the idea, offering to pick up customer deposits and bring them to a local branch.
But Primis may be the first bank in the United States to combine physical service delivery with a mobile app that automates the delivery process.
The name might not be intuitive to the outside eye, but for Primis, it makes sense. When asked why there’s a ‘1’ in V1BE, Rios laughs, acknowledging it might be a little confusing. Primis means ‘first’ in Latin, which is the core of the bank’s brand message. Customers are first and foremost, she says.
She says the name is catchy, joking it’s also a ‘vibe,’ which is how they pronounce it.
Primis launched V1BE in late 2021, and 2022 has been an extended testing phase. When the product was first released, it was used as a method to retain current customers. Rios explains her team wanted to ensure it was a viable product, and one that could be grown at scale.
Now, however, the bank also is looking to use V1BE as a resource to attract new customers. Rios says the team is rolling out marketing campaigns in the areas V1BE is offered in.
How Does V1BE Home Delivery Work?
At its core, Primis’ V1BE is designed so customers — regardless of how close they are to a branch or ATM — can withdraw cash and have it delivered to them, have cash or coins picked up for deposit, get a cashier’s check, submit a wire transfer form, get a debit card replacement and conduct a handful of other basic transactions, from their home or business office.
Rios says the fan favorite request through V1BE is the ‘Come Get My Money’ and the ‘Recurring Pick Up’ services, which together make up four-fifths of the V1BE transactions. The latter is exclusive for business customers, allowing clients to schedule deposit pick-ups.
Interestingly enough, Primis doesn’t utilize its own branch staff to supply the drivers. Instead, the bank contracts with an outside company.
“We have couriers that are employees of a logistics company that we partner with,” Rios explains. They are not employees of the bank and are not aware of what they are transporting, which provides anonymity and security. “It also keeps them from being super preoccupied if they’re handling large amounts of money. It’s a delivery service.”
A Different Twist:
Primis Bank uses outside couriers — not its own people — to transport money, cards or documents to and from the bank for any customer requesting it.
Rios says the average time to reach customers for on-demand banking services is 48 minutes. The goal is to reduce the time in the coming months to between 30 and 45 minutes with additional branches and drivers.
If customers request cash, they must be present, and the driver will collect a signature and verify ID. However, if it is a non-cash request, a V1BE customer can submit alternative delivery instructions — like ‘leave at the front door’ — similar to Amazon or Doordash.
To date, V1BE is operational in 160 zip codes within the Greater Richmond, Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland markets — spanning roughly 2,500 square miles. Eventually, the bank plans to expand the product into the entirety of both Virginia and Maryland.
Security Concerns and Costs of Doorstep Banking
When ventures sound too good to be true, it’s natural to ask — what’s the catch? How much does this cost? What compliance and fraud measures does a bank have to take?
The bank has taken measures to mitigate concerns of theft. For instance, there are limits to how much money each driver can deliver — most are never carrying more than a few thousand dollars at a time. If a larger amount is requested, multiple deliveries will be made.
A customer’s experience can be frustrating if they have to go to multiple branches to withdraw the money they need.
“If you place that order through V1BE, we might have to go to three different branches to get it for you, but you can stay home and continue working,” Rios says.
Money laundering issues are, of course, a concern in any banking transaction involving large amounts of cash.
Although Rios does not dive into how Primis Bank handles compliance concerns with V1BE, the same rules apply as for other transactions. For instance, while a V1BE customer can hypothetically withdraw $60,000 in a day, the bank must still report any withdrawals of $10,000 or more by a customer in a single day.
“In reality, the cost of a driver who can transport to and from the customer and work out of multiple facilities is less than opening another brick-and-mortar branch.”
— Teresa Rios, Primis Bank
For now, customers have access to the V1BE service for free, which Rios says is a “short-term investment that pays long-term dividends.” The idea is that all customers — not just high-value ones — can get access to the service.
“In reality, the cost of a driver who can transport to and from the customer and work out of multiple facilities is less than opening another brick-and-mortar branch,” Rios explains.
Rios adds that there is very little to no impact on branch transactions “because we are using the branches as fulfilment locations.” The only difference, she says, is a branch employee doesn’t have a customer in front of them as they process the transaction.
A Great Way to Grow SMB Portfolios Without Extra Branches
The V1BE product sounds like an easy win for consumers, but small businesses in particular are a target market for the product, Rios explains. Of the 450 active users that the bank has so far, there is an equal balance between consumers (49%) and small business owners (51%).
As Rios explains, however, small business owners are more likely to use the product on a reliable, scheduled basis.
“A consumer may just require services once a month, but business owners are the bulk of our day-to-day and we have businesses that are set up for recurring pickups, so they don’t have to go anywhere,” Rio says. “They just package their deposits and wait for the V1BE driver.”
This potentially gives Primis an edge over many B2B digital-only neobanks.