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Future of the Branch: Unconventional Branches

Solving Unaddressed Customer Problems 

While internet and mobile banking have revolutionised the ease of access to banking products, there are occasions where neither digital nor traditional branch banking are accessible options, an issue FNB is determined to resolve in the unbanked rural communities of South Africa. First National Bank recently opened a mobile branch housed in a converted shipping container, featuring key banking services including an ATM, ADT and teller services, providing customers with a means of depositing cheques, applying for loans and opening savings or investment accounts. Though the low-cost and rapid construction time of FNB’s mobile bank cause the endeavour to be more desirable than opening a traditional branch, the primary benefit is the mobility of the compact branch, permitting the branch to be transported to whenever it can be of service. The advantage of such an adaptable branch is clear, with the initial destination of the branch (Mutale, Limpopo) being changed temporarily to Tembisa following a natural disaster, in order to aid the impacted community. The potential benefits of such easily movable branches are plentiful, with FNB already continuing to assess areas where demand for this branching option may exist. The value of innovative, customer-centric banking is a concept that must be incorporated into branches if the demand for branch banking is to continue, and the success of FNB’s project illustrates how unconventional branches can offer something unique and desirable for customers.

With ease of access appearing to be one of the most important aspects of the future of banking, Metro Bank seems to have looked to the past for inspiration, opening American-style “drive-thru” branches, a style of branch that first operated in the UK in 1959. Despite not being a new, original concept, Metro Bank have garnered considerable success from their first drive-thru branch operating in Slough since 2013. Metro Bank’s faith in this style of branch caused them to open a second drive-thru location, situated in Southhall, West London in a retail park. Drive-thru branches offer many services found in traditional branches including the ability to pay-in cash and cheques and withdraw funds, all without the customer needing to leave their car. Metro Bank have found these branches receive the heaviest traffic on days where the weather is poor and is frequently used by parents with young children in the car, while its seven day a week opening hours and 8pm close on weekdays adds to the convenience of the branches, enhanced by being located close to a main road. The primary aim of this service is to provide customers with more choice over how they bank, prioritising convenience through acknowledging that every customer will have different preferences. The success of Metro Bank’s drive-thru branches showcases how shifting the focus of branch banking to meet the needs of your customer base is now more important than ever in ensuring that branch banking offers something unique and relevant to the customer.

 Another non-traditional branch solution that has operated in the banking industry for quite some time is the concept of mobile banks, utilised by Natwest since the 1970’s and continue to visit numerous rural communities throughout Britain. Idea Bank in Poland have pushed the envelope of this concept, creating a fleet of driverless zero-emission BMWs fitted with ATMs to permit small businesses to deposit their daily revenue at the end of each day, as well as make withdrawals. The service is incredibly user-friendly and easy to use, with customers simply requesting the car to arrive at their place of business using the Idea Bank Money Collection app. The car will arrive at the chosen destination within minutes, or alternatively can be booked in advance for a specific timeslot. The service has been a great triumph for Idea Bank, now offered across 12 Polish cities, with the number of cars expanding from 4 to 12 in the first year of its inception, with the intention of reaching 30 by the end of this year. The mobile ATM sees deposits three times larger than those of a bank branch, and is considered a noteworthy success by the fintech industry, receiving “Innovation in Payments” recognition at the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Innovation Gala. The idea for this innovative approach to ATM deposits was developed in order to change the cumbersome process of business owners taking their money to the bank in person, a practice adopted by 80% of Polish SMEs. Idea Bank’s mobile ATM fleet is an impressive example of how identifying a problem for a bank’s client base, that can be successfully resolved with innovative and user-friendly technology, can lead to the installation of branch banking that is more reflective of the needs of the customer.  



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Dharmesh Mistry

Dharmesh Mistry



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28 Jan 2004



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