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"We're making a major step forward in terms of adopting commercial practices," said DeCA's Director, retired Major General Richard E. Beale, Jr. "By inviting banks to operate in commissaries, we're doing in military grocery stores exactly what's being done in retail grocery stores." An agreement between the Defense Commissary Agency and NationsBank Military Banking was formalized June 25 at DeCA headquarters in Fort Lee, Virginia.
"These are full-service banks, not just teller machines," said Jay Manning, DeCA's deputy general counsel for commercial law. "People want one-stop shopping, and banks are becoming an absolute must in grocery stores today. This fits in with DeCA's efforts to increase customer service.
"For the banks, the exposure to existing and potential customers is the draw," said Manning. Commissaries typically have heavy traffic, making them ideal business locations. And commissary customers will benefit from the convenience of being able to bank and shop in one location.
"We're the first!" said Charleston AFB Commissary Officer Dan Martinez. "It's great because we don't have a bank on base right now, so everyone will benefit from this." Martinez said customer feedback from news of the project has been mostly enthusiastic.
The Charleston in-commissary bank is also a first for NationsBank Military Banking. "This banking center will combine the convenience of our in-store banking concept with accounts and services specifically designed for our military personnel and their families," said Jerry Reaves, president of NationsBank Military Banking. "Our partnership with the Charleston Air Force Base will give us another opportunity to provide financial services to those who serve our country."
The in-store banking concept is a Department of Defense (DoD) pilot project. In light of downsizing, installation banks are finding it harder to maintain an acceptable level of business and remain open. The pilot project is intended to give banks the opportunity to increase business as well as continue to support military customers on DoD installations. A DeCA team evaluated the concept and determined it was viable, said Manning. "It's a good idea. There are approximately 188 stores in DeCA that meet the criteria for in-store banking. That's nearly two-thirds of our stores."
On installations that already have a bank, DeCA must work with that bank, and coordinate with the installation command. The banks will be responsible for building and operating their areas and staffing them during commissary hours. Other than providing space, DeCA will not be expending funds to support the banks, nor will it dictate the level of service banks provide.