Security still the prime concern for bank branches

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Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 am

One thing will remain when it comes to bank branches, no matter their number or size: security.

“The big concern is always security,” said Jack Jackson, principal at Omaha architects Jackson-Jackson & Associates, which has designed about 250 bank branches since 1950 and has five additions, remodeling jobs or new ones on the drawing board now.

According to the FBI, there were about 5,000 U.S. bank robberies in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available. That is down from about 9,000 annual robberies earlier in this century, but still works out to about 14 per day. The annual take in 2011 was $38 million.

To combat the menace, Jackson said current-day bank branches bristle with unseen security devices: cameras and other electronic surveillance monitors, alarm-rigged cash trays that blare when unauthorized bills are removed, sophisticated building alarms, and triggering systems designed to escape the attention of the most paranoid and eagle-eyed criminal.

“They are also putting in a lot of amenities — hospitality areas, coffee and juice bars, cookies,” Jackson said. “In rural banks, you will have a television monitor with the grain prices.”

Jackson said exterior bank design has not varied since the invention of banking: “You want to give the impression of stability. You don’t want anything trendy.”

And trendy is what killed some of the big ideas from the years before the 2008 banking meltdown.

At First National Bank of Omaha, the branch of the future once was envisioned to include lighted floor panels, ala the dance floor in the 1970s disco film “Saturday Night Fever.” The idea was that different panels would light up with descriptions of various banking services in the branch, with an arrow pointing the way for customers to boogie on down to the proper office.

After being tried in one branch, First National nixed the idea, said spokesman Kevin Langin.

“The concept was a prototype that we discovered did not enhance the customer experience and, therefore, was removed and not featured in subsequent branches.”

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