Banks and credit unions remain cautious about allowing customers inside branches during Phase 1 of reopening North Carolina’s economy.

Even though Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order began allowing retailers Friday to reach 50% of their occupancy capacity, banks and credit unions surveyed by the Winston-Salem Journal still offer inside assistance by appointment only while serving customers at the branch through drive-through lanes and ATMs.

Phase 2 would begin at least two or three weeks after Phase 1, potentially as early as May 22.

At that point, stay-at-home orders would be lifted, but vulnerable people would be encouraged to continue staying at home.

“North Carolina bankers are eager to see and visit with their customers again,” said Peter Gwaltney, president and chief executive of N.C. Bankers Association. “However, not all banks will have the same procedures and policies for reopening lobbies, so we encourage customers to check with their bank for information and instructions on access during Phase 1.”

When banks and credit unions reopen their lobbies, they will ask customers to continue following social distancing guidelines and use hand sanitizer if they are planning on conducting a transaction involving cash.

Gwaltney said customers may want to call their branch to see if they are recommended to wear a mask.

“Banks entered this pandemic from a position of strength and remain committed to helping their communities by assisting in the reopening of the economy in the safest way possible,” Gwaltney said.

When branch lobbies are reopened to customers, they will feature many of the same safety protection protocols as other retail outlets, such as plexiglass shields at the teller lines and employees wearing masks and gloves.

“We currently are looking at timelines and ways to safely bring back our remote employees and to reopen our lobbies, based on guidelines provided by the government and our medical communities,” said Cathy Pace, president and chief executive of Allegacy Federal Credit Union.

Pace said Allegacy members quickly adapted to predominantly online and drive-through interactions.

“During March and April, we saw an increase of almost 74% of members using our online account opening option, a 61% increase in mobile deposits, and 74% increase of members using interactive teller machines with live-teller assist,” Pace said.

Truist Financial Corp. responded to the first round of easing retail restrictions by resuming Saturday drive-thru service at select branches.

“We will continue to monitor developments and enact changes as we are able to safely offer lobby services,” the company said.

Wells Fargo & Co. spokesman Josh Dunn said that for now, “the branches that we have temporarily closed will remain closed.”

“At our open branches, we are keeping in place measures to ensure we can serve our customers and keep our branches safe, including social distancing measures, utilizing drive ups where we have them, and staggering staff and shifts.”

Piedmont Federal Savings Bank said customers will be required to wear masks with some available at branches.

The bank plans to offer limited lobby hours at first “to provide sanitizing of the branch during the day,” said Ginger Salt, the bank’s chief experience officer.

First Horizon National Corp. marketing spokeswoman Amy Tharrington said “given that counties and work sites may be operating under varying protocols, the phased return to normal operations plan will vary by area, location and business function.”

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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