Wells Fargo Bank

Cars pack the automated teller and drive-thru teller lines Monday afternoon at Wells Fargo Bank on Buffalo Way. Drive-up service has had a resurgence in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some banks in the valley have opened with caution as businesses start welcoming customers — despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases in Teton County.

“We were one of the first banks to actually close,” said Thomas Smits, Rocky Mountain Bank’s senior vice president of branch administration. “Once we felt we had protective measures in place, we reopened our lobby.”

Reopened banks are encouraging masks and 6 feet of distance between employees and between customers, promoting drive-up and online banking platforms, installing plexiglass shields and inviting customers to book one-on-one appointments.

Bank customers are reacting to this new normal. Bank of Jackson Hole Chairman and CEO Peter Lawton said that “the behavior of the customer has definitely changed,” noting that “online platforms and our drive-up have both seen a significant increase” in customer traffic.

Bank of Jackson Hole’s lobby opened about a month ago, but many customers are still steering clear of the lobby — opting for drive-up, mobile and online banking.

Like all banks in the valley, First Interstate Bank’s “number-one focus since the onset of the pandemic is to keep our clients and employees safe,” Jackson Market President Richard Uhl said in an email correspondence.

First Interstate’s branch lobbies are temporarily closed, but clients can call to schedule one-on-one appointments. Because its lobbies are shuttered for the time being, First Interstate’s online banking was up almost 11% and mobile banking increased about 6% from the first quarter to the second, Uhl said. First Interstate’s nationwide drive-up transactions are also skyrocketing: They rose more than 50% in the second quarter as compared with the first.

Everyone has felt the COVID-19 economic downturn in one way or another, and banks have been busy with loans.

“As a community bank, we’ve been helping local businesses and clients for more than 50 years — it’s what we do,” Uhl said. “These loans mean businesses can stay in operation, their employees will keep getting a paycheck and local economies and communities stay strong.”

Rocky Mountain Bank reopened on June 10, maintaining the same lobby hours in place before the pandemic.

“We felt it was important to keep our hours consistent to what it was pre-COVID — as long as we had protective measures in place,” Senior Vice President of Branch Administration Thomas Smits said. “We have been encouraging appointments and can accommodate.”

Rocky Mountain was one of the first banks in the valley to close, Smits said.

Now, even with doors open and masks on, Smits estimates that about half of Rocky Mountain’s employees are still working from home and nearly 75 percent of their business is occurring within online channels.

“Before COVID, drive-ups were kind of a dinosaur channel, but now they are actually one of our biggest channels,” Smits said.

Rocky Mountain is working on updating its ATMs so clients can interact with employees without stepping foot in the lobby. With the coronavirus pandemic and increase in online banking, Rocky Mountain saw a market for interactive teller machines because “a lot of clients now look at the lobby as a last resort,” Smits said.

The bank’s new ITM system, slated to launch at the end of this year, might make in-person banking a blast from the past.

Still, Smits recognizes that “some of our clients enjoy coming to the bank for social interactions, and we welcome them. Everyone has been respectful about social distancing.”

Zions First National Bank’s Jackson location is open by appointment only. Wells Fargo has opened its teller line, but bankers are available by appointment only.

US Bank is offering only drive-up services at this time. First Western Trust, Meridian Trust Federal Credit Union and First Republic Bank have all opened their lobbies. First Republic encourages clients 60 and older to visit the lobby from 10 to 11 a.m.

Contact Julia Hornstein via jhornstein@jhnewsandguide.com.

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