People don’t visit banks as often as they once did.
Kelly Montefiore, chief operating officer of Erie-based Marquette Savings Bank, jokes that because of all the mobile and online banking options, some customers open accounts and are never seen again.
But not everyone understands how to use those tools, and they don’t always have someone to ask.
Marquette, which was scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon at its new $8.25 million operations center in downtown Erie, was determined to address that education gap — and find new ways to connect with the community — when it began making plans for the new building at 930 Peach St.
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The new operations center, designed by the Erie architectural firm of Weber Murphy Fox, fulfills the need for additional office space with a sleek, three-story new building just a couple of doors down from the existing headquarters of the Erie-based bank.
The sound-deadening design makes for a whisper-quiet atmosphere in a series of glass-divided offices and cozy collaboration spaces used by deposit operations and information technology employees.
The operations center also includes a second-floor training center, equipped with Zoom-enabled television screens, that provides space for up to 110 people. The training center, paired with a small caterer’s kitchen, will provide training space for Marquette’s 150 employees and is available for rent by outside groups.
Bringing the community to the bank
The discussion, however, is likely to focus on the building’s 2,000-square-foot Innovation Learning Center, which opens onto West 10th Street and into a neighborhood that’s emerging as Erie’s innovation district.
That’s thanks to the $8.5 million rebuild of the former Rothrock building into the home of Velocity Network and Gannon’s University’s ongoing effort to reinvent the former Verizon call center into the $28 million headquarters for the Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge.
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With large windows and a massive 54-square-foot video message board that faces 10th Street, the new Marquette building meshes neatly with the high-tech aesthetic of the neighborhood.
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At first glance, the Innovation Learning Center looks like an internet cafe.
It does fill that role. The cafe there, operated by the owners of Main Street Cakery Cafe Restaurant and Bakery in Fairview, will offer drinks, pastries, sandwiches and salads.
Mike Edwards, CEO of Marquette Savings Bank, acknowledges that the Cakery might be what gets people to walk through the door.
“They are the draw, at least at first,” he said.
Montefiore, whom Edwards credits with coming up with the concept for the Innovation Learning Center, hopes patrons find other valuable reasons for spending time there.
One of the chief attractions is likely to be a manned help desk, where a rotating cast of bank experts will offer free guidance and advice in areas such as information technology, bank fraud, home-buying and information on mobile banking.
Those services will be provided free to anyone, not just customers of the bank, which does business in Erie and Crawford counties, Montefiore said.
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Blaine Fellows, information technology manager for Marquette, said his staff won’t be cracking open the cases of broken laptops, but they do expect to help patrons navigate email problems and other issues.
“Say someone comes in and they are having trouble with their phone dying all the time. It just can’t keep a charge and they want to know how to fix that,” he said.
Fellows is hoping his staff can help.
Getting help or learning something new won’t always mean waiting to chat with the person at the help desk.
The new space features two digital kiosks — they look a bit like automated menu boards — where customers and other patrons can learn about a range of Marquette’s anti-fraud and digital banking products.
“We want to increase penetration of those digital products,” Montefiore said. “We spend a fortune on them. We want people to know how to use them in a safe manner.”
The kiosks also provide entertainment and education for kids.
A decade in the works
Plans for the Innovation Learning Center grew out of 10 years of discussions, Montefiore said. It also grew out of a realization that plenty of people don’t know how to use the products designed to protect them from fraud and designed to make banking easier.
“I think we had a ton of those conversations where we would say, ‘I wish we could do this.’ But there wasn’t enough time in the day and there wasn’t a hook to get customers to come in and see us,” she said.
Leaders at Marquette aren’t the only ones who think it’s important for consumers to understand how to make a mobile deposit or protect themselves from fraud.
“There is a lot of regulator pressure on us to make sure our customers understand our products, understand what we are doing and what the risks are,” Montefiore said.
Edwards said there is no certainty that the public will connect with what Marquette is offering.
“It’s an experiment. It’s a leap of faith,” he said, adding that the learning center could be converted to office space if needed.
Edwards, whose bank is an investor in the Erie Downtown Development Corp., said he’s proud of Marquette’s contribution to the building boom that’s taking place in downtown Erie.
“I think it exceeded expectations. I am certainly pleased that this is where we ended up,” Edwards said. “This is the Peach Street corridor. It’s one of the main corridors coming downtown and I think this building adds a lot.”
Marquette Chairman Stephen M. Danch said in a statement that recent construction in Erie, including the new Marquette building, projects by the EDDC, Erie Insurance and UPMC Hamot, represent a welcome departure for the community.
“It was not too long ago when construction in downtown Erie was very rare or nonexistent,” he said. “Today, you can see and feel change happening.”
Montefiore said she feels good about Marquette’s addition to the downtown and the message it sends to the community.
“It’s important to say our arms are out,” she said. “We are welcoming people in any way we can.”
Contact Jim Martin at 814-870-1668 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNMartin.
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