PNC Bank this month is changing 45 of its branches in 15 states to what it is calling a new "universal branch" format, including two in Cleveland.

PNC Bank this month is changing 45 of its branches in 15 states to what it is calling a new “universal branch” format, including two in Cleveland.

The branches feature traditional tellers being retrained as financial consultants. The concept could debut in the Akron market as early as next year, said Drew Martin, executive vice president and market manager of the northern Ohio PNC division, in a recent interview.

The branches at Cleveland’s Tower City and University Circle don’t look different physically, but the universal branch is designed to “put more emphasis on the solution versus just the transaction,” said Martin. “In a typical bank experience, you wait in line to do a transaction. At a universal branch, we’re able to handle the full array of the financial conversation and enhance the experience.”

PNC has not announced how many locations it would like to change.

“This model is an opportunity to test and develop the bank of the future. Branches play a critical role, but the fact of the matter is clients are using them very differently. We need to meet the needs of our clients,” he said.

PNC recently closed its Goodyear Heights branch at Newton and Goodyear Boulevard in Akron, saying there was a reduction in use by clients as customers move to mobile and online banking. Customers in the neighborhood were disappointed in the decision, saying the branch was still used by many seniors in the area.

Martin said the universal concept is a starting point for exploration on developments in future branches. The bank has also recently upgraded its ATMs to what it calls a “smart” ATM that allow checks and cash to be deposited in stacks. Also, the ATM can dispense cash in bills as small as $1.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.

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