200325 Bank Drive-Through 2

Area banks have closed their lobbies and asked customers to conduct their business from their drive through teller windows. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

Bank Independent President Macke Mauldin said investing in technology over the years is substantially paying off now that most financial institutions have closed their lobbies to the public due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders of local banks appear to be following the same protocol of closing lobbies and encouraging customers to do their banking from their car at a drive-through teller window, over the phone, online or through a phone app.

If the business requires a face-to-face meeting, those can be arranged by appointment, officials said.  

Mauldin said at least 75% of Bank Independent's employees are working remotely, utilizing secure, bank-issued laptops. 

"We talked to the other banks and told them what we were planning so they wouldn't be surprised, and explained why we were doing it," Mauldin said. "I think now we're all on the same page. We just felt it was our responsibility to do the responsible thing, as soon as we figured out how to do it."

He said Bank Independent's technology investment has allowed it to continue to operate and provide services to customers while protecting its employees and customers.

The few employees who are working at bank branches are segregated as much as possible.

Mauldin said Bank Independent representatives will also meet with customers by appointment.

"I don't think we've had many of those at all, because the customer understands the situation and we're all in this together," Mauldin said. "They are probably honoring what the governor has asked us to do."

In a message to customers on its website, First Southern Bank President and CEO Dennis Morgan said the bank's pandemic response team meets daily to assess the most current information, and make decisions accordingly.

The bank's branches are maintaining regular business hours, but have closed their lobbies. They are offering enhanced drive-through service, online banking, and even curbside service.

"Just call us in advance and we will meet you just outside the bank with change, cash, or other needs you may have," Morgan said.

ATMs, he said, are routinely disinfected. 

A message on the FirstBank website said its banks were also suspending lobby operation, but is offering "24/7" telephone banking, as well as other remote banking services.

FirstBank has a "convenient digital banking platform in place to provide uninterrupted banking services," according to the online message.

According to a message on its website, CB&S Bank, which is based in Russellville, has closed the lobbies in all its branches until further notice, and has asked customers to use the drive-thru to conduct business.

"Our employees and customers are important to us, and we want to make sure we are helping you stay safe," the bank's "Coronavirus COVID-19 Readiness" statement reads. "We are closely monitoring the latest news about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) just as you are. We are doing all we can to make sure our branches are operating as normal, but we continue to evaluate the need for adjustments in how we deliver our banking services to you."

The statement adds that any CB&S customers who need help with their accounts can call 877-332-1710, or submit a request through the "Contact Us" button on the bank's web page.

Ryan Moore, market president over Shoals operations, said People's Trust Bank went to an all drive-through policy at branches. Some customers are being seen by appointment.

"We set up a quarantine area in our lobby," Moore said. "The customer comes in and sits down at a simple table with two simple chairs."

When the transaction is completed, the table and chairs are disinfected to be ready for the next customer, Moore said.

He said the bank is seeing more activity from online banking, automated teller machines and drive-through windows. Moore said the buttons on the ATM machines are disinfected frequently.

"I can't imagine what this would be like if this had been 15 years ago before mobile banking and online banking, before that got real popular," Moore said. "I guess that's been a blessing out of all this."


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