President and CEO Vernon Hill believes fundamentally that Commerce Bank isn’t in the banking business. Rather, it’s in the retail business. And if you think like a retailer, he says, then you’re constantly coming up with ways to enhance the customer experience. Like the sleek phones added to Commerce ATM machines in case customers need to reach the 24/7 call center. Or the “check view” feature on the bank’s Web site that allows customers to see an image of the front and back of a check a day after it has been deposited. Or the Penny Arcade in the lobby. The ma-chine swallows handfuls of loose change and then spits out a receipt showing the total value.
When Hill learned that other banks had started refusing to accept large numbers of coins or were charging customers to do so, he saw an opportunity.
“We said, ‘We’re going to spend $10 million to take your coins,’” he says. The added value isn’t in the form of a service charge on each transaction, the way change machines typically operate. The Penny Arcade is free. Hand your receipt to the teller, and you get the full amount in cash.
Where’s the value in that? “The Penny Arcade is more than a mere convenience,” says Hill. The real appeal is that it’s fun. Kids want to use it. Pack rats need to use it. People waiting in line at the teller counter can’t help but watch when someone steps up to the machine lugging a coffee can filled with coins. In its own small way, the Penny Arcade transforms the bank into a more interesting place. And that, says Hill, is how you create traffic. Last year, Commerce’s Penny Arcades handled 750,000 transactions, which totaled $71.7 million. Now that’s real change.