The latest BBA (British Bankers’ Association) study has further reinforced some beliefs; firstly, the British public is clearly embracing mobile banking; secondly, there has been an increase in the number of consumers using easy-to-use technology (contactless
cards, text message balance alerts etc.), and thirdly, these innovations are giving customers greater flexibly than ever before on how to manage (their) money.
As highlighted by the BBA, customers of Britain’s five largest banks used their mobile phones for more than 18 million transactions per week in 2013 – twice as many as in 2012 - and more than 12.4 million customers have downloaded their bank’s app, with
several of the UK's largest banks having apps that boast more than a billion uses already.
But it isn’t just mobile phone apps that are shaping how we bank. There are many customer-friendly technologies being offered and adopted. Millions of people have signed-up to receive text messages from their banks – from getting regular balance updates
to warnings on nearing borrowing limits or potential fraudulent use of a card. Lloyds Banking Group sent more than 302 million of these messages to customers last year.
Barclaycard says its customers are now spending £6.6 million per month on their contactless cards[i], as the firm celebrates the fifth anniversary of the introduction of the technology to the UK. This
has come about because major retailers now accept the technology.
It wasn’t that long ago that if a bank customer failed to reach the local branch by 3.30pm on a Friday that they could face a weekend without cash. Back then, obtaining your current balance also required an extended branch visit, queuing to ask at the counter
how much money you had and then waiting for the cashier to scribble it down on a piece of paper, before surreptitiously sliding it across the counter.
In recent months, RBS Group have announced that there has been 30% drop in footfall in its branches since 2013, while Tesco Bank reports that 85% of transactions are done via the internet.
But with that all said, it doesn’t mean that the bank branch is dead or even dying.
Although bank branches might no longer be the primary place for day-to-day counter services, they will still be needed for those big moments, when customers want to talk to someone about a mortgage, explore financial options or resolve a complaint. They
are also somewhere where banking legislative requirements can be met. There will always be people who want branch-based services even for the most straight-forward of transactions. Banks will be there for such customers –although many might find their local
post office a convenient alternative or a retailer with which their bank has partnered to offer 'in store' branches.
The look and feel of walking into a branch today is very different to what it was like even 10 years ago when Banks like Abbey (now Santander) partnered with coffee shops and offered mobile phones to get people into a branch. Take Metro Bank for instance,
a challenger bank. The staff in Metro Bank use tablet computers and are currently trialling a ' drive through branch'. And it doesn’t stop there, with the Metro Bank founder announcing just yesterday, that alongside the CEO at First Direct, they will set-up
Britain's first branchless, digita -only bank next year[ii].
Yet it’s not just the challenger banks who are changing; Barclays has more than 1,000 iPads in its high street outlets and notes it only takes three minutes to open an account via the devices[iii],
compared with around an hour using one of its personal computers.
Virgin Money is another challenger bank demonstrating the competitiveness of Britain’s banking market and have been actively opening branches, highlighting that the bank branch will remain at the heart of its banking services for years to come. However,
it can’t be denied that they will, and already have, begun to change. Banks are trying all kinds of things to entice customers in from virtual tellers to ‘green’ elements.
While mobile banking won’t be the end for bank branches, the take-up tells us that many people (and not just those from Generation Y) simply do not have precious minutes to spend in a branch. They want flexibility, which is something that banks need to deliver.
Thanks to continued innovation, we’ll see more and more people adopt mobile banking where they can bank both faster and easier, whilst on the move.