The first Digital First Chase bank branch opens on Mercer Island with “smart” ATMs meant to fill the traditional role of a teller while the former tellers work as financial advisers for clients. Kailan Manandic / Staff Photo

The first Digital First Chase bank branch opens on Mercer Island with “smart” ATMs meant to fill the traditional role of a teller while the former tellers work as financial advisers for clients. Kailan Manandic / Staff Photo

Mercer Island sees first wave of Eastside bank enhancements

Chase bank opened its first Digital First branches on the Eastside in Bellevue and Mercer Island.

Mercer Island recently became a stepping stone for banking on the Eastside as Chase opened one of the first digitally-enhanced branches on the Island’s South End.

Chase’s new “Digital First” branches offer a new experience for their clients through “smart” ATMs that now handle a majority of typical in-person transactions. The first two Eastside branches — one in Bellevue and one on the Island at 8425 Southeast 68th Street — opened for business on May 20, and employees were actively introducing clients to the new system.

“The adjustment and change is due to direct feedback from our clients as we’ve seen more and more clients choose to do online and mobile banking,” regional market director Nathan Nguyen said.

The smart ATMs are upgraded and provide most basic transaction options with a higher limit than typical ATMs.

While the new machines essentially fulfill the role of a bank teller, Chase’s bank tellers now serve as advisers for walk-in clients. According to Chase, providing in-person advice for buying a house or saving for retirement is still important as banks begin to break away from the typical format and a younger generation grows into new responsibilities.

“Every branch is an advice center,” Nguyen said. “For retirement education, small business and wealth management advice, face to face is what clients want.”

Two-thirds of Chase customers still use the physical branch an average of 16 times a year and Millennials only 12 times a year, according to the bank’s statistics. More than 80 percent of all Chase customer transactions are digital and bank officials identified Mercer Island and Bellevue as communities best suited for the Digital First enhancement.

The Digital First branches began to open in Seattle about 15 months ago, along with branches in four other U.S. cities. The three Seattle locations received positive feedback, Nguyen said, and the bank began looking toward expansion on the Eastside.

“The branches are still a vital part of our service,” Chase spokesperson Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot said. “I think it’s truly a great investment in our communities, and we’re happy to be in the Mercer Island community.”

There are currently no plans to expand more Digital First branch enhancements on the Eastside.

, but Donahoe-Wilmot and Nguyen emphasized that Chase will continue community-focused improvements wherever the need arises.

“This again not only shows commitment to our communities, but also commitment to our branches,” Nguyen said. “We’re continuing to invest in our employee job family, despite the typical move toward digital that eliminates jobs, we’re doing the opposite.”

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
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