July 1, 2013

Skowhegan Savings branch adopts 'dialogue banking'

A trend toward fostering closer teller-customer relationships arrives in Augusta.

By PAUL KOENIG Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

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John Witherspoon, president of Skowhegan Savings, says the company will gather feedback about dialogue banking in its Augusta branch before trying it in other locations.

Photos by Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

click image to enlarge

Tellers work behind two pods Friday in the lobby of the new Skowhegan Savings branch on Route 27 in Augusta. The idea behind ‘dialogue banking’ is to free tellers to have more interaction with customers and present them with options.

The bank has 10 locations and is purchasing five branches in Franklin County from Camden National Bank.

The construction of the building and the land cost the bank about $2 million, according to Witherspoon. The new location replaced the bank's Belgrade branch.

Witherspoon said one of the reasons the bank went with dialogue banking at its Augusta location was to differentiate itself in the market. He said it also fit well with that location's customers and employees.

Vicki Alward, senior vice president of retail banking at Skowhegan Savings, said the bank is considering adding cash machines at the service pods in its other traditional locations.

She said she expects other banks to adopt that same technology.

"It is a technology that is available, and banks should be trying to implement it where they can," Alward said. "For us, it was a great time to implement because we were building a new branch."

When asked why some other institutions haven't adopted the dialogue banking model, Leger of Town & Country said, "Change can be difficult for the banks to embrace, but I think it should be considered more progress than change."

John Murphy, president of the Maine Credit Union League, said institutions typically switch to a new setup like dialogue banking only if they're already planning renovations or if they're building a new branch.

He said he expects the number of institutions using the strategy to grow as it becomes more popular.

The additional advice and services that can be provided at the dialogue banking pods can allow customers to benefit from visiting a branch, Murphy said.

He said it's key for financial institutions to have a variety of delivery options for consumers, including mobile banking, full-service ATMs and physical branch locations.

"Ultimately it's all about convenience to the members," Murphy said, "allowing them to do business where and when it is most convenient for them." 

Paul Koenig can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:



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