Huntington Banking On Meijer

WitkopBread, butter and banking. In-store bank branches – part of a one-stop shopping business strategy – are not new, but there is a new partnership in town: Huntington and Meijer.

Although in-store banking has been available in many markets including Traverse City and other northern communities for more than a decade (and formerly Chase Meijer), Huntington is pursuing a modified strategy by partnering specifically with Meijer stores throughout Michigan, and playing an interactive role within the shopping centers.

“We aren’t engaging as bankers but as people,” said Mike Witkop, Huntington community president – northern Michigan.

Huntington’s Meijer colleagues will regularly spend time in the store’s common and shopping areas and won’t be limited to the physical banking space. “We expect our colleagues to be as knowledgeable about Meijer and its store layout as the Meijer staff are … segments of every day will be spent in the store interacting with customers.”

According to Mike Witkop, Huntington community president – northern Michigan, the bank is slated to open its branch inside the original Traverse City Meijer on U.S. 31 South in mid-October while the in-store location at the new Meijer off M-72 in Williamsburg will open along with the store’s grand opening in November. Each will be staffed by five to six bankers. The two new in-store branches join Huntington’s four other traditional branches in Traverse City (downtown, Campus Plaza, Cherryland Mall and the Grand Traverse Mall) as well as its ATM service at Cherry Capital Airport and other branches in Leelanau and neighboring northern Michigan counties.

“Meijer is a great brand and a great culture that fits very well with our Huntington culture,” Witkop said, noting the alignment was essential.

The relationship between the two entities was developed differently than earlier in-store models.

“Our relationship (with Meijer) started a few years ago … and our in-store [model] is very different,” said Huntington Vice President and Corporate Communications Manager Jacqueline Ortiz Ramsay of Columbus, OH. “We are not just a transaction point. We’re more than an ATM or a teller, but a full-service bank.”

In-store branches provide the amenities and structure many bank customers expect including bank tellers and ATMs for transactions as well as private meeting spaces and bankers available to advise and assist with such retail banking matters as auto loans, mortgages, home equity lines, investments, new checking and savings accounts and connections to additional expertise within the broader network. Unlike stand-alone branches, the in-store locations are also open seven days per week, with extended evening and weekend hours. The new Huntington branches are scheduled to run weekdays 9am-8pm, Saturdays 9am-5pm and Sundays 11am-4pm.

With the two new Traverse City locations, Huntington and Meijer have now partnered with 85 in-store Michigan locations, including northern Michigan locations in Alpena, Boyne City, Cadillac, Charlevoix Gaylord, Grayling, Kalkaska, Reed, City and Petoskey. The bank has a similar partnership in Ohio with the Giant Eagle chain.
Huntington first began pursuing its in-store strategy in 2010 with Giant Eagle. Ohio success led to the first Meijer partnership in 2012, and subsequent introduction to northern Michigan in 2013 with the first in-store locations in Cadillac, Big Rapids, Gaylord and Petoskey.

Statistics show the model is working and in-store branches are on the rise. According to Ramsay, in-store branches accounted for 27 percent of new household checking accounts between 2014 and 2015. The statistic is notable when considering that in-store locations accounted for just 18 percent of all branches. In addition, the 85 in-store branches added during the past few years represent more than one third of all branches (220) added during the same time period, and have helped boost Huntington from #5 to #3 in Michigan market/branch share.

Up north, Witkop noted that in-store branches already in place are outperforming original projections and have been a wise choice.

“From an investment standpoint,” Witkop said, “it is a much better use of capital to use a building that is already in place and working with a store and its customers, rather than building a new facility in an out lot.”

He noted an “in-store” location benefits customers seeking a one-stop option as well as those working longer hours and late shifts who want to access traditional banking at nontraditional hours.

“People are busy and want to get more done with a single stop,” Witkop said, noting northern Michigan weather also plays a role. “People are less apt to want to jump out of a car twice if they don’t have to, especially in the winter.”