What Is a Mini-Branch?

A mini-branch, also known as a convenience branch, is a special type of bank branch that offers only a limited range of services to its customers.

Mini-branches are usually smaller than conventional branch locations, and they are often located in grocery or discount stores. While some mini-branches offer access to tellers, many function only through automated teller machines (ATMs).

Key Takeaways

  • Mini-branches are smaller versions of bank branches, which offer a pared-down range of services.
  • They are often located in places where customers might need to withdraw cash, such as at grocery stores and supermarkets.
  • Mini-branches have become more popular as customers become less reliant on in-person services given by bank tellers.

Understanding Mini-Branches

Mini-branches typically offer a far more limited range of services than traditional bank branches. For instance, they typically do not take applications for loans or mortgages or offer other specialized services. Instead, their primary focus is on deposit and withdrawal services, often using ATMs. Mini-branches are located in areas where customers are likely to need these services, such as supermarkets, department stores, and shopping malls.

In some cases, however, banks will try to minimize their overheads by opening mini-branches in neighborhoods where retail space is particularly expensive. For example, Wells Fargo (WFC) operates a 1,000 square-foot mini-bank in Washington, D.C., which eschews private offices in favor of an open floor plan. This office is designed to maximize the limited floor space. For instance, walls can be unfolded at night to close off portions of the mini-branch, restricting customer access to ATMs.

In part, the use of mini-branches is driven by changing consumer preferences. Wells Fargo conducted research which found that 80% of active branch users did not require a teller to help them complete their in-branch transactions. As customers increasingly turn to online and mobile banking platforms to fulfill their banking needs, the role of conventional bank branches may continue to diminish.

Cost Savings of Mini-Branches

While a traditional bank branch requires 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of retail space and a significant amount of back-office paperwork, a mini-branch requires no more than 1,000 square feet and may use technology to eliminate the need for back-office work. Because mini-branches require fewer tellers and staff, operating expenses are about 50 to 60% of those for a traditional bank branch.

Real-World Example of a Mini-Branch

One particularly notable example of a mini-branch is operated by Windsor Federal Savings. This particular mini-bank is located in John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Windsor, Connecticut. It is unique in offering savings account services and lessons on financial literacy for the local school children, with special emphasis on the importance of saving.