Bank of America employees got some good news this week. For a third year, the bank is handing out an extra bonus – and it isn’t chump change. That means there’ll be more cash floating around Charlotte this holiday season.
The Charlotte Ledger’s Tony Mecia joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Lisa Worf for this week’s BizWorthy segment.
Lisa Worf: How large are these bonuses – and why’s the bank handing them out?
Tony Mecia: If you know anybody that works at banks, you know that a lot of their compensation is tied up in bonuses that usually come out in February or March. But these are extra bonuses that the bank is paying out because the bank has had a few good quarters. It's been very successful, posting record profits, I think, four out of the last five quarters. So they came out this week and said that employees who make under $100,000 are going to receive a $1,000 cash bonus in December. And that employees who make between $100,000 and $350,000 are going to receive restricted stock worth thousands of dollars more. That takes a while to vest. It's going to be vested over four years, so they can't immediately cash that out and go buy new cars, say. But they know that that's money that's going to be coming because the bank has been doing so well.
Worf: And, staying with the banks: We've seen a lot of branch closings in recent years as banks put a lot of money in digital, but there have been some new branch openings and they're looking kind of different. What's going on there?
Mecia: Banks are not totally neglecting the branches. You might think, "Oh, well, they're just going to let technology run its course, and eventually all these branches are going to close." And they have been closing branches. But when they open new branches, they tend to design them differently. They have open floor plans. The tellers are not necessarily there just waiting for you to come make deposits. They're trying to think of the branches more as places where you can receive advice and guidance. If you need to talk to somebody, of course they will talk to you. But they would like to show you also how to use some of their digital offerings, how to use high-tech ATMS. There are a number of things that they're moving into and we're seeing a bunch of these types of branches open up across Charlotte.
Bank of America opened one in the new Bank of America Tower at Legacy Union U.S. Bank opened its first branch in Charlotte, opened in uptown last week. They're adding up to 10 branches locally. So you're going to see more of these kinds of designs that are not your typical "partitions at the teller window, just waiting for you to make deposits."
Worf: And some of these even have rooms that community groups can rent out?
Mecia: Right. I mean, it's sort of like, are you trying to turn the bank into a Starbucks, into like this third place where people can kind of come and hang out and become familiar with you? I don't think we're quite there. Although banks in other parts of the country do have things like cafes and yoga and things to try to pull people in. But a conference room is a little bit more standard.
Worf: Hospitals have been sinking a lot of money into technology and not just for research -- but how patients interact with health care providers. I understand now you can ask Alexa to find and book an appointment at Atrium Urgent Care Centers?
Mecia: Gene Woods, who's the CEO of Atrium Health, he gave a speech at the Charlotte Rotary this week in which he outlined some of these technological advances that Atrium is making. And, you know, some of these things sound like they might be sort of plucked out of science fiction from a few years ago.
So, Woods said that they have a number of different technologies that they're using, including Alexa. If you're looking for an urgent care center, want to make a reservation at an urgent care center, if you can enable the skill on Alexa that allows you to find an urgent care center. They're using virtual reality goggles to help kids with cystic fibrosis sort of be distracted while they undergo some medical procedures. You can synch your Fitbit with medical records.
And of course, then there's also this big move toward telehealth or a "virtual primary care," as Atrium calls it, which allows you to talk to a provider, over your computer, on your phone. So they're really trying to meet patients sort of where they are. And, you know, if you think traditionally of medicine -- going into a doctor's office, waiting in the waiting room, seeing a doctor -- yes, they have that. But they're also looking at new ways to deliver that care remotely. And so that's something that they think is maybe more convenient for patients. And it's also potentially less expensive.
Worf: And this is happening in a lot of hospitals across the country, not just Atrium?
Mecia: Sure. Worth pointing out, not just Atrium. I talked to Novant and they said they are doing some things that are very similar in telehealth. If Atrium has Alexa, Novant has Google Play and Google Assistant where you can do similar things, as far as finding providers using digital assistance.
Worf: OK, on to the Canon Ballers. That's the new name of the minor league baseball team in Kannapolis, formerly known as the Intimidators, after the city's native son, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. And this change had the potential to get a lot of people upset -- but people seemed to really like it.
Mecia: Yeah, there was a lot of enthusiasm when they announced that name last week, that Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. It really worked, I think, on a number of different levels. Obviously, you know, the word "cannon" has a lot of significance in Cabarrus County, referring to Cannon Mills, which was the main employer in the center of town, produced sheets and towels for the entire country. And a lot of people wanted to see the Intimidators renamed the Cannons.
But I talked to the guy who designed the name. He said, "Look, the named 'Cannon' is a little bit problematic. It's a weapon of war." And so how do you make something that is a weapon of war into something that's kind of benign? And it struck him, he said, like a bolt of lightning. It came to him: Cannon Ballers. Then he thought of the circus and said, "Oh, the guy in a cannon ball shot out of a cannon." So they went with Cannon Ballers.
Like I say, it works on a number of different levels. They have the mascot who sort of looks like Dale Earnhardt, so they preserved some of that. And it's also a little bit edgy in the sense that it has the word "ballers" in it. That's something that's a little bit edgy. It's a term that comes out of hip hop. That's a play on words. That means not only an athlete who plays a sport with balls, but also someone generally who is successful, maybe has a little bit of swagger.
So, you know, I think it's really been a hit in Kannapolis. You see a lot of people were there buying merchandise, you know, Ballers shirts and Ballers caps. And I think it's a tremendously fun new image that a lot of people are embracing.