Nancy Nesbitt
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, AccuBranch
Age: 61
Industry experience: 37 years 

Throughout her nearly four-decade career, Nancy Nesbitt has worked in commercial real estate, economic development and banking. As chief operating officer at Connecticut-based AccuBranch, Nesbitt said her job takes components of each experience and “seems to wrap them all up with a pretty bow.” Nesbitt spent more than 15 years working with retail stores, supermarkets and McDonald’s to analyze markets, find locations for new stores or restaurants and develop the real estate. She also worked on economic development with municipalities and as a commercial lender with Webster Bank. After joining AccuBranch in early 2021, Nesbitt last month became COO of the market research and real estate firm, which works with banks and credit unions from Maine to Texas. 

Q: What does AccuBranch do?
A: We are basically doing for these banks and credit unions the work that I did for retailers: understand their markets and understand where they should build new branches if they want to build them. If they want to look at the current group of branches that they already have, which ones do you keep open? Are there branches you can downsize? Are there ways to serve your market, but lower the cost of your existing branch network, and then go out and grow? Once we present that information, and the client is happy with it, we execute. We go out and we find the best location in the markets and help oversee the permits and the approval so that they can build that branch. And that’s where my economic development hat comes in, because of having worked in municipalities. 

Q: How do you go about understanding the market?
A: We talk about our services in terms of this circle that helps our clients understand their customers – and that’s both consumer and commercial. Who are the customers that resonate with you? Who chooses to do business with you? Who resonates with your particular value and brand and messaging? And we find that if we go back in markets where we’ve worked with one client, and we’re hired to work for a different client, the composition of the type of customers that they each draw are very different. From that information, we can provide tools to their marketing team that allow them to go out and very skillfully target those underrepresented consumers that they want to reach. 

Our data and our analysis also lead us to the right part of the market that they need to be in. What is exciting is that in over 50 percent of the time, we find real estate sites for our clients that aren’t on the market, because we know how to analyze a market for the right kind of location, the right kind of visibility and the right kind of site. We will frequently then go and dig into the land records and approach landowners directly and acquire property that was never on the market because it’s the best possible site for our clients. If we go into markets and there’s not a good location that would work for them, we’ll tell them there’s not an option right now that’s best – let’s wait and see. 

Q: Is there a common thread that you’re finding in what banks and credit unions are looking for?
A: I think the common thread is they’re more and more aware that they’ve got to use data to make informed decisions. They can’t guess. We certainly have seen shifts with the way people do their banking post COVID. One of the things we’re doing a lot of analysis on now is to find out what’s the composition of their customers who have a tendency to use online banking versus the physical branch, what does that look like in a given market, and how does that apply to strategy. 

However, branches still matter. The analysis keeps telling us that even if consumers are doing the majority of their easy banking online, they still want a branch nearby for complex transactions and when they need help and questions answered. We basically say, “Your branch is your billboard, your marketing presence.” 

Q: Is there a particular innovation that you are seeing with branches?
A: We have many clients who are embracing ITM technology. My expertise is not bank design. It’s the placement within the markets. But we do have a lot of clients who want us to analyze a particular market open to new technology: Are these the type of people that would embrace a more advanced technical style of banking? And we do our analysis around what types of people in which markets will embrace that. For instance, we did a study in Connecticut, and the profile of the type of person who had a preference to using all digital online banking was a certain composition. Yet we went to New Jersey, and it was completely the opposite side of the coin. The same people wanted to use the branch. So, we never assume that one profile of a person is the same across the board. 

Q: What other changes are banks and credit unions looking for with branches?
A: We have some clients who are starting to think about doing smaller, more nimble branches to augment a full-sized branch. One of the other ideas that is starting to come to light is a small storefront where they might have this ITM or an ATM in the lobby, and then having a small office for by-appointment-only meetings. We see customers really trying to think outside the box when it comes to what does a “branch” look like. I think it’s continuing to change and morph. 

I will say that the majority of our clients will not open up a new branch now without a drive-thru. For a while, banks thought that they could survive just fine without a drive-thru, but what they found during COVID is the branches that didn’t have drive-throughs suffered the most. And people have continued to want that kind of convenience. When I’m looking for real estate for our clients, we won’t build one without one or two drive-throughs, because it’s a consumer requirement these days. 

Nesbitt’s Five Favorite Leisure Activities: 

  1. Finding new trails to hike 
  2. Planning mix-up of workout routines 
  3. Watching HGTV for decorating and renovation ideas 
  4. Finding new recipes for dinner parties 
  5. Going out dancing with her husband and friends 

A Data-Driven Approach to Branches

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 4 min