Coastal Federal Credit Union is breaking through the Sunday barrier.
Beginning this weekend, the Raleigh financial institution is expanding its teller services to seven days a week.
"I think it makes us more attractive to someone who is shopping around for a new financial institution," said Coastal Federal spokesman Joe Mecca.
Key to the expanded hours are the credit union's Personal Teller machines that allow tellers working from its headquarters on St. Albans Drive in Raleigh to serve multiple branches. Credit union members interact with a real-time video image of the teller as machines scan checks, dispense coins and cash and generate receipts.
Tony Plath, a finance professor at UNC Charlotte, said he knows of no other bank or credit union in the state that offers teller services every day of the week.
"The tradition in North Carolina is, as a Bible Belt state, you don't talk about money on Sundays," he said.
But Plath thinks others could follow in an effort to stand out from the competition and maximize the returns on their brick-and-mortar investments. He said studies have shown that weekend banking is cost-effective in urban areas but not in rural ones.
In recent years, some of the area's biggest banks - including Bank of America, First Citizens, SunTrust and Wachovia/Wells Fargo - have offered limited Saturday hours at select branches.
Today Wachovia/Wells Fargo offers Saturday hours at 23 of its 60 branches in the Triangle, up from 18 last year, said spokeswoman Christine Shaw. The bank also expanded its Saturday hours last summer, opening from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., an hour later than previously.
Customer demand and customer feedback drove the expansion, Shaw said. However, the bank doesn't have any plans to open on Sundays.
Coastal Federal already offers Saturday hours and plans to expand the hours its tellers are available on Saturday this weekend as part of its initiative.
All 15 Coastal Federal branches are in the Triangle. This weekend, the first three will make the transition to Sunday teller hours, with most of the others scheduled to be open on Sunday by the second weekend in June. Last year, it closed its three branches in Charlotte, citing a small membership base there and intense competition. The credit union has 190,000 members and $1.9 billion in assets.
Coastal introduced its remote teller technology at the end of 2008, and today all but one of its branches rely solely on them for basic transactions. After adding five new tellers for its Sunday hours, the credit union has 40 tellers supporting 60 Personal Teller machines.
Monica Wilson, 38, a Coastal member who lives in Raleigh, said she often can't get to the bank before 5 p.m. and sees no difference between using a Personal Teller machine and interacting with a teller in the flesh.
"I especially like it because it is open after hours," she said.
But Beth Forehand, 31, also of Raleigh, has mixed feelings. She's a fan of the convenient hours but finds that getting a cashier's check is more complicated than in the days when she could just hand a teller a note with the name of the recipient and other pertinent details.
"I have to spell things out," she said. "You really have to enunciate."
Although Plath sees merit in serving customers on Sundays, he sees technology bringing an end to the heyday of branches.
"Anybody under about 45 right now has no interest in going to the bank for a transaction," Plath said.
That doesn't mean the death of branches, however. He sees them as always being useful when people need to consult about planning retirement or taking out a loan. But people will be willing to drive farther for those services, reducing the need for the current proliferation of branches, Plath predicted.
"Branches are expensive," he said.
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