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Which? reports branch closures, but banks must maintain a physical element to customer experience

Which? has released a research report showing more than a third of bank branches have closed in the last five years. The consumer group found that 3,303 branches closed between January 2015 and August 2019, leaving just over 6,500 branches open in the UK. 

It was concerning to see that the closures were led largely by the ‘Big Four’, with RBS Group reducing its branch network by 56 percent. If one of the largest high street banks shuts more than half of its branches in less than five years, it raises the question: what will the banking landscape look like for customers in another five years’ time?

There’s also the matter of opening hours, with Which?’s research finding that out of the remaining bank branches, 298 are now operating with reduced opening hours of just four days a week or less. Even more surprising is that 45 branches across the UK open for just two days a week.

Of course, with bank closures littering the headlines lately, these figures uncovered by Which? are a symptom of a wider evolution; customer behaviour is changing every day and more transactions are moving online.

Despite the shift to online banking, however, there will always be customers who prefer to do business in person, and banks need to ensure they don’t leave these customers behind. In a TNS survey of more than 2,000 UK adults, 62 percent said they were only comfortable using banking applications for the most basic tasks, or not at all.

Interestingly, Accenture’s recent report on banking found that although traditional retail banks have spent over $1trillion on digital between 2015 and 2018, the expected revenue isn’t yet materialising. ‘Digital-only’ has been sold to banks as a way to save money through automation and self-service, but customers still want some physical interactions alongside the digital elements that are being introduced.

That’s why it’s vital that as more branches close, high street banks prioritise becoming ‘digital-first’, not ‘digital-only’. Retail banks shouldn’t rush to prioritise app and mobile services at the expense of customers who don’t want them, but instead need to be offering a seamless omni-channel customer experience to give customers the best of both worlds. I asked earlier what the banking world will look like in 5 years’ time, and the reality is that all of these non-digital customers will still be around and are still going to have complex banking needs. With this in mind, banks that go digital-only need to be aware that they may be about to lose existing loyal customers… and they’ll take their money with them.

 

 

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Andrew Stevens

Andrew Stevens

Global banking and financial services specialist

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Disruption in Retail Banking

Growth in internet and mobile technologies has transformed many industries and economies. The market forces and competitive landscape has completely changed in many sectors. iTunes has fundamentally changed music industry, Amazon has driven most big brick and mortar book sellers out of business, Expedia is one of the worlds' biggest travel company….. the list goes on. Internet and mobile technologies are big disrupters for most industries. What started (and tapered a bit!) with the dot com boom of 2000 has become a lethal threat to most business models today. Powered by mass adoption in mobiles phones, proliferation of smart phones and cheaper band-width, internet and mobile technology have changed many industries. The banking industry in has been dominated by a handful of big global or regional banks for 100s of years. While the credit crisis has shaken this industry, the core market forces for the industry have not changed. Will Innovation in Internet and Mobile technologies disrupt retail banking? Will there be 5 new names in global top 10 retail banks in 2020?


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