The economic downturn may lead to a surprise revival of interest and investment in branch banking, as consumers seek out personal advice and a shoulder to cry on in a recessionary climate.
Seventy per cent of Lloyds TSB branch managers across the UK say that they have seen an increase in the number of customers coming through their doors to discuss concerns they have about their finances, with half claiming an increase in customers asking
for general budgeting advice to help them get their affairs in order.
Responding to the trend, Lloyds TSB is running a nationwide campaign to promote the guidance available in its branches from ‘financial health specialists', who have been trained to help customers review their finances, manage their money better and provide
And while TowerGroup yesterday suggested that policital pressure may be applied to recapitalised banks forcing them to
pull out of offshoring and repatriate their call centres, the economic realities may be even more persuasive, as customers look for a recognisable friendly voice on the line, rather
than an offshore operative working to a tight script.
Reinvestment in the bank branch and elevation of the role of the bank manager may also help to head off competition from non-banks who are looking to capitalise on the disarray in the financial sector: consumers looking for advice on their financial situation
are far more likely to turn to their friendly local bank manager than to their grocer.
Don't get me wrong. Continuous innovation and investment in Web 2.0 social media technologies and the mobile Internet will still be a requirement - particularly for the next generation of banking customers - but the widgets can't match the old-fashioned
virtues of tea and sympathy when times are hard.