Every time I walk into my bank, I typically notice several offices in plain view of customers, each with a manager or loan office sitting doing nothing.

On other occasions, there may be a wait to see an officer, perhaps even a long wait.

What if there were queues of bankers at all times, and a no-wait policy? What might that cost?

Actually, it would be far cheaper.

Express Banking

The Telegraph reports computers lined up to replace humans in bank branches.

Several major banks are understood to be in talks to introduce “express” branches, which would be similar to self-service checkouts in supermarkets. These smaller outlets would be almost completely devoid of human interaction.

If trials are successful, the new format is likely to be adopted across Britain, sources said, with larger branches slimmed down and staff numbers reduced in branches.

Martin Shires of banking technology firm NCR said: “As early as next year, you could see one of the major high street banks buying a convenience store location and fitting it out with ATMs that mean you can do 95pc of your transactions through self-service. Within five years this will be a common sight.”

The new branches would be smaller and fitted with screens and telephones so that customers could call a specialist department for assistance. This might include a video link similar to the Skype internet telephone service.

Ed Salvesen, a researcher at Brewin Dolphin, the investment manager, said while it is likely that some staff will retained in branches, in-person banking could become a rarity. “Face-to-face communication is slowly being faded out,” he said. 

Mr Shires said the technology would allow banks to open for longer, as machine-led branches would be significantly cheaper to run. He said a pilot scheme of express branches in the US had reduced operating costs by up to 50pc, with some staff redeployed from branches to video call centres.

Drone for Deliveries

Amazon made a big splash last week with news of using drones for deliveries.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is testing unmanned drones to deliver goods to customers, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos says. The drones, called Octocopters, could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of them placing the order, he said.

However, he added that it could take up to five years for the service to start. The US Federal Aviation Administration is yet to approve the use of unmanned drones for civilian purposes. “I know this looks like science fiction, but it’s not,” Mr Bezos told CBS television’s 60 Minutes programme.

Amazon Prime Air

On it’s website, Amazon is excited about Prime Air.

The goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.

Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations.

Amazon Test Flight

Do You Tip a Drone?

Dominos does not deliver to my area. Nor Does Pizza hut. Yet, I am less distance away from their stores than many places they will deliver to. I am just in a different town. A drone with a GPS would have no problems whatsoever delivering to my address.

And it would be cheaper and faster, for me, as well as the pizza place to not have to bother with human carriers or tips.

Like Amazon, Domino’s Tests Delivery of Pizza by Remote-Controlled Drone.

The company’s DomiCopter—a joint effort by U.K. drone specialist AeroSight, Big Communications and creative agency T + Biscuits—is an eco-friendly machine capable of carrying pizzas in heatwave bags for impressive distances without refueling. Sadly, it’s also a threat to the labor force of guys who get stoned in their cars and forget where you live.

Jamba Juice Vending Machines

Bloomberg reports As Smoothie Store Sales Slow, Jamba Juice Turns to Machines

McDonald’s (MCD) is in the smoothie market, and others like Dairy Queen and Panera (PNRA) spent the summer promoting their rival drinks.

But the smoothie chain is hoping to see improvement from something it calls “JambaGo,” a self-serve machine that can be installed in cafeterias, schools, and convenience stores. Jamba Juice makes money by selling the prepackaged, pre-blended smoothie ingredients to JambaGo vendors, like a soda maker selling syrup to the owner of a soda fountain. The advantages: Jamba doesn’t need to build a store and the labor costs are much lower compared with hiring staff to concoct made-to-order drinks.

About that $15 an Hour Minimum Wage

I received hundreds of emails and comments to my post Battle for $15 minimum Wage; Should Companies Pay Workers More? Wal-Mart a Savior or a Pariah?

But as I reflect on what is on the horizon at Amazon, at Dominos, at banks, and with Jamba Juice Vending machines, it seems the $7.25 an hour minimum wage is far too high already.

Regardless, every increase in minimum wage will further encourage businesses to seek alternatives to human employment.

Obamacare does the same thing.

More Questions to Consider

  • Does Jamba Juice even need stores?
  • Why can’t McDonald’s drive-up windows have a central dispatch (in India)?
  • What about touch screen fast-food service robots? Might they not even take on a human form?

I can certainly envision McDonald’s paying $15 an hour, but with 75% fewer human employees. The same applies to every fast-food company in the world.

You can force fast food and other places to pay a higher minimum wage, but you cannot force them to hire someone.

And the higher the minimum wage, and the higher the costs of Obamacare, the greater incentive to seek alternatives.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock