Ameris Bank to pilot 'universal branches' Downtown

Ameris Bank President Andy Cheney, left, is joined by Ameris Bank Chairman Daniel B. Jeter, JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis and city Community Affairs Director Charles Moreland, among city and bank executives, to cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday t...
Ameris Bank President Andy Cheney, left, is joined by Ameris Bank Chairman Daniel B. Jeter, JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis and city Community Affairs Director Charles Moreland, among city and bank executives, to cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday t...
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Ameris Bank’s Downtown branches are taking a nontraditional — maybe a better term is new-traditional — turn.

Executives walked guests through the Southbank space Tuesday on the lobby floor of Riverplace Tower during an event to celebrate the bank’s move of its executive offices to the 28-story building.

While the celebration showcased the executive offices on the 26th floor, the lobby space it leases was vacant in preparation for development of a different kind of branch office that should open this summer.

Called a “universal branch,” there will be no traditional tellers but plenty of technology and an open floorplan.

Instead of teller lines, there will be desks and the branch will be staffed by at least two associates, under the direction of a manager, to guide customers through whatever service they need.

The bank considers them customer-employee engagement centers.

Ameris Bank President Andy Cheney said Tuesday the bank will pilot the universal branch at the Southbank office and then open another at a new Northbank branch.

“They are not a new thing, but they are new to us,” he said.

Associates still provide one-on-one assistance. They also can teach customers how to bank electronically on their personal technology, such as mobile banking.

“The employees that are there can help the customers with the technology, but also each person there can do whatever transaction is necessary for a customer,” Cheney said.

He describes the universal employee as a highly skilled private, concierge banker who can take care of a customer’s branch needs.

Also, universal branch bankers can meet customers at their offices and bring the technology to take care of business. It should open this summer.

The universal branch will open at 8 a.m. Universal bankers can take appointments as early as 7 a.m. at the branch or at their customers’ offices.

Technology will make things easier for customers if they want to use it and there also will be assistance if they don’t. It’s described as a more personalized and efficient interaction.

“We’re going to test it,” Cheney said, adding the concept might be rolled out incrementally but won’t work in every branch.

The city approved a permit May 20 for Adams Interior Contractors Inc. to build-out 3,324 square feet of space for Ameris in the Riverplace Tower lobby at a project cost of $200,000.

The lobby space formerly was a Wells Fargo branch, but it closed late last year as Ameris Bank was preparing space in the building for its executive offices, which relocated from Moultrie, Ga.

While the bank remains headquartered in Georgia, its top executives are based in Jacksonville.

Ameris Bank now hangs its name on top of the tower, at 1301 Riverplace Blvd., along the St. Johns River.

Ameris is represented on the Northbank, but there’s a change in store. It operates a traditional branch with teller functions at 100 N. Laura St., a space it took over after its acquisition of The Jacksonville Bank.

However, that lease expires in September, after which CenterState Bank will move in.

Ameris Bank is looking for another central Northbank location to open a universal branch that also will be staffed by two associates.

Both Downtown offices will be managed by Heidi Roberts, the retail branch manager for the Ameris Universal Branch.

In June 2015, the American Bankers Association Marketing and Sales report said the need for physical branches was in decline, leading banks to decide which ones to close and the highest and best use for those remaining.

It reported that more than 2,600 bank branches closed the previous year and cited PwC’s “Retail Banking 2020” study that found an expected consumer shift toward more digital channels than traditional offices.

At the same time, it found bank customers still wanted branches for face-to-face conversations about complex products, such as mortgages.

Universal branches are considered oriented toward self-service.

PwC found banks are moving from managing branches to managing distribution and to balance local customer needs with the high cost of branch operations.

Branch models include assisted self-service, in-store branches, full-service branches, community centers and flagship stores.

Ameris Bank, which is publicly traded, has more than $6 billion in assets and operates throughout the Southeast. In the Jacksonville area, it has 14 branches and 178 employees, which includes those in its back-office operations in Southside.

Ameris said it is the largest community bank in Jacksonville by deposit market share.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for us here,” said Ameris Bank CEO Edwin Hortman Jr.

Macquarie Group to add 30 jobs

Macquarie Group, which leases the fifth floor at Riverplace Tower on the Southbank, has started to recruit about 30 more finance professionals to the office, which now has about 70 employees.

Applicants for the accounting, tax and finance roles can visit for more information.

Australia-based Macquarie is a global provider of financial, advisory, investment and funds management services. It opened the Global Finance Services center in January in February.

The company announced Tuesday it appointed Anthony Glenn to lead its finance team in Jacksonville, starting July 5. He comes from Credit Suisse, where he led the firm’s Finance group in Raleigh, N.C.

Glen Skarott, deputy group controller for Macquarie’s Financial Management Group, is interim head of the Jacksonville office.

$24M Portiva apartments approved

The city issued permits Wednesday for the $24 million construction of the Portiva apartments at 6898 A.C. Skinner Parkway. Permits show 255 units. LandSouth Construction is the contractor.

LIV Development of Birmingham, Ala., said previously construction would take 18 months and Portiva will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that will lease for $1,000 to $1,600 a month.

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