Not all that long ago, depositing a check required a trip to the bank. Today, that and many other transactions can be handled quickly and privately on a computer or smartphone. Keeping up with the public’s evolving banking habits isn’t easy, but Reliance Bank is finding innovative ways to serve clients. Its latest venture is a new branch featuring a Tim Hortons Express, a cafe known worldwide for its coffee and donuts. “Banking is changing,” says Tom Brouster, Reliance chairman. “Fewer people are coming into branches to do their banking, so we have to find a new approach. My 17-year-old daughter, Meredith, says we are turning an everyday chore into a coffee run.”

The new flagship location, which opened last week across from Plaza Frontenac, is the 20th for Reliance in St. Louis. It’s a full-service branch in a newly constructed building at “one of the best corners in St. Louis County,” Brouster says. Although the architecture is traditional Colonial Williamsburg, it’s far from a typical bank. The offices have glass walls, there’s a large meeting room for the community, and cozy seating replicates a living room at Tim Hortons. “Some businesses might not want to share space, but Tim Hortons saw this as a win-win,” says Rick Sems, Reliance president and CEO. “We aren’t competing against each other, and we benefit from each other’s traffic. We like the thought of doing a few more locations with them.”

Putting a coffee shop inside a bank is a new concept for St. Louis, but Sems says it’s a logical fit. “A lot of business takes place at coffee shops,” he says. “People are closing home loans or doing job interviews. Why not make it into a place where you can have a meeting while also having instant access to banking services like a notary, cashier’s checks and the latest home loan rates?” (The branch is also the bank’s hub for mortgage operations.) Sems hopes that, over time, the people who stop in for coffee or pastries will develop a relationship with Reliance employees, who can become their go-to resource for banking-related information.

The new Frontenac location includes other progressive ideas, from a tech bar for tablets and smartphones to state-of-the-art virtual teller machines in the drive-up lanes. As Reliance introduces high-tech solutions, however, it remains committed to its traditional values as a locally owned, service-driven community bank, Brouster says. “Technology gives people a choice,” he explains. “There are still people who like to come into a bank where a teller knows their name. Myself, the staff, and the board are all local residents, and we can make all of our decisions here. We don’t have to go through a bureaucratic process to complete loans or other issues. That personal service gives us an edge over larger banks.”

[Reliance Bank opened its 20th branch in St. Louis last week. The flagship bank at 10401 Clayton Road includes a Tim Hortons Express to create a more relaxed banking atmosphere. For more information, call 314.569.7200 or visit]

Pictured: Reliance chairman Tom Brouster
Photo courtesy of Reliance Bank