By Claudie Benjamin
Noon on a Wednesday, Citi Bank’s spacious entry floor is nearly empty: no lines, just one interaction occurring between a customer and bank teller. Upstairs on the 2nd floor where complex business matters are conducted, Branch Manager, VP Raysa N. Lapaix works in a space designed for many more than the three employees now at their desks.
Tall, dressed in black and masked, Lapaix is a glamorous presence in the hushed 2nd floor corporate space. Individual work areas are defined by floor to ceiling glass partitions. Muted black & white photos of urban buildings hang on the walls. In the central waiting area that looks out on 72nd Street, comfortable turquoise upholstered chairs are well-spaced with large X signs on the floor signaling required ample-spacing between customers as a Covid prevention.
The subdued atmosphere is very different from the pre-Covid pace of life at this Citi branch. Lapaix assures that bank business is robust. She explains that communications and business operations are being conducted differently than in pre-Covid times.
She notes that “many neighborhood customers have moved out of the city to their country homes in Long Island, Upstate, New York and Connecticut. “We know because we haven’t heard from them, we’ve called to follow up.”
Phone and Zoom communication now define how business is done. This complicates transactions Lapaix says because matters like authenticating signatures, for example, involve more steps when not done in person. While some people prefer to come in to do banking, far more opt to use remote options for everything including check deposits, transferring money between accounts and applying for loans. Many existed pre-Covid, but were not as generally used as they are now.
Lapaix has worked for Citi Bank 16 years, transferring to the West 72nd Street branch a year ago. At other branches where she worked, she says Citi partnered in sponsoring recreational neighborhood summer time activities. Last summer this was not possible at the 72nd Street branch because of reduced staff and hours due to the pandemic.
Early on Lapaix was driving in and back from her New Jersey home.
More recently, she’s felt comfortable commuting using public transportation. Generally, she seems to be a resilient person who adapts to the challenges at hand. “It’s the new reality,” she says.