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Banks push remote services due to coronavirus 

  • A video display feed is placed in the lobby of Greenfield Savings Bank showing President John Howland delivering a message about the bank’s current practices concerning COVID-19 on Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Vehicles wait in line to use the virtual teller services and ATMs at Greenfield Savings Bank on Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield Savings Bank is moving to virtual teller and by-appointment services due to COVID-19. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Vehicles wait in line to use the virtual teller services and ATMs at Greenfield Savings Bank on Wednesday afternoon in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield Cooperative Bank on Federal Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield Cooperative Bank and People’s United Bank on Federal Street in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2020 7:14:01 PM

GREENFIELD — As social distancing becomes the new norm, banks are relying more than ever on digital means of conducting business, and asking customers to minimize physical visits to bank offices.

Banks are not shutting down. But, in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, they are beginning to limit face-to-face interactions strictly, and instead emphasizing their online services. Local offices started announcing changes this week.

Greenfield Savings Bank closed the lobbies of all but one of its 10 branches Wednesday, and is now doing almost all business through its online services. The bank emphasizes that all of its services remain available, both through remote means and by special appointment. But, for the sake of public health, the bank is encouraging customers and employees to do as much business remotely as possible.

“It isn’t necessarily going to be done the way it’s always been done,” said Greenfield Savings Bank President John Howland. “But if you need a service, we will find a way to do it for you.”

Among the other banks with offices in Greenfield, some have already changed their policies for interacting with customers. Others have not yet announced changes.

■Freedom Credit Union, a bank based in Springfield that has branches in Greenfield, Turners Falls, Northampton and Easthampton, closed all 10 of its branches’ lobbies Tuesday. Drive-up windows are still open during regular business hours, and all ATMs are still available. Freedom Credit Union’s website encourages customers to use its online and mobile systems, which include check deposits, bill payments and loan services.

■Franklin First Federal Credit Union, which operates entirely out of Greenfield, has not closed its office, but is also encouraging customers to use its online and mobile services. Bank President Michelle Dwyer mentioned that policies may change later this week.

■The two national and regional banks with branches in Greenfield, People’s United Bank and TD Bank, have not closed their branches. TD has closed other branch lobbies throughout the country, including one in Holyoke.

The technology behind the remote banking systems is not new. Many banks already have systems that are capable of depositing checks, transferring money and accessing loan services.

Greenfield Savings Bank, which recently made improvements to its technological infrastructure, expects a fairly easy transition to doing most business remotely.

Last year, Greenfield Savings Bank introduced a remote teller system for its drive-up and walk-up ATMs, in which customers video chat with a teller from the Turners Falls branch. The system allows ATM users to do more complex banking than is possible with typical ATMs, and also allows for longer hours than bank branches are typically open.

The only Greenfield Savings Bank lobby that had not been closed by Wednesday was the Amherst office on University Drive, which is the only one not yet outfitted with the new machines.

“We feel like we were very prepared for this type of service delivery before it became absolutely necessary,” said Greenfield Savings Bank’s Marketing Director Paul Benjamin.

While face-to-face services are still available by appointment, Benjamin and bank President Howland noted that all services are available remotely or through the ATM video chat system, except for access to safe deposit boxes.

Internally, Greenfield Savings Bank is also reducing social contact. By Wednesday, about half of the bank’s employees were working from home, Howland said. The other half, who were still working in the office, had been physically separated.

The company has a pandemic plan that is routinely stress-tested, and was most recently updated in January, when news of the coronavirus was first breaking, Howland said.

“We’re limiting face time to less than a minute, but we’re doing the same thing,” Howland said. “I am fully confident that we are going to do everything we can to respond to this in the best way we can.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-960-4231.


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