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Multi-Channel Strategy, A Platform for Banking Innovation

Branch: The Twists in the Story Continue…

Undoubtedly new channels have revolutionized the way people bank. And yet, branch networks thrive. A reality reflected in the discussion topic at a recent conference on multi-channel distribution that I attended.

Increasingly, it seems, flexibility is the key to the future of branch banking. And most banks that share this belief are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Take the U.K. banking sector for instance, which has seen a number of branches shut down. A big part of their preparation for a more online future is to find ways to compensate for the inevitable reduction in revenue. For who doesn’t know that more online means more free? In contrast, Icelandic and Austrian banks believe that the branch, still the primary relationship building channel, needs more touch than tech. They’re on the hunt for a better branch model.

It’s amazing that banks have taken a leaf out of the hotel industry book! While certain glitzy branches have stretched customer service to the point of providing gaming areas for kids, others have gone the budget route, placing small outlets with a staff of about 5, in high traffic areas. And who could have dreamt that modular branches would be repeatedly erected and dismantled to provide banking services a few hours every week in rural areas?

But branches are experimenting with more than size, location and timing. Some have innovative layouts that allow customers and staff to view the same screen, bringing transparency to the interaction. Others enrich customers’ lives beyond banking by inviting them to select events such as book readings and exhibitions, conducted within the premises off-hours.

Banks are also making branch operations more flexible with an eye on improving accessibility. An Italian bank has given a whole new definition to mobile banking – theirs is delivered via trucks completely kitted out with branch infrastructure, which move from place to place, promoting the bank’s services as well as assessing opportunities. And here’s one format that shopaholics must beware of – the branch that is located in busy markets and works the same timings as the shops around it. Their motto: catch the customer in a happy mood!

There must be many more interesting permutations out there…to inspire…to emulate…any branch stories to tell?

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