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Branch vs. self-service: Striking the banking balance

Retail bank branch closure is a growing trend in several countries as a cost cutting method. The thinking behind this is logical: branch banking is expensive so it makes sense to drive customers to channels such as online and mobile which still provide a wide range of services but are cheaper for the bank to operate. But will this increasing shift towards self-service banking kill off customer relationships?

ANZ’s CTO thinks so. At a recent conference, Patrick Maes spoke about how neglecting face-to-face banking reduces banks’ chances of building meaningful relationships with their customers. And he has a point. While self-service banking channels have experienced significant growth in recent years, customers are becoming increasingly fickle and events such as the financial crisis have meant that more are willing to take their money elsewhere. Statistics show that in the UK for example, 14 million banking customers are willing to jump ship when the seven-day account switching rules, recommended by the Vickers report, take effect in September.

Customers also prefer to meet with bank staff in the branch to discuss complicated or sensitive issues such as mortgage or loan applications. It’s difficult to foresee a time when customers would opt out of meeting with the bank manager to talk through their options.

What’s important is that banks are able to strike the delicate balance between putting in face time with the customer, while encouraging them to use cheaper self-service channels when appropriate. Rewarding the customer for its relationship with the bank and using rewards and offers to cross-sell services is also key to building a meaningful bond and boosting loyalty.



Comments: (2)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 19 June, 2013, 16:09Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

As a part of bolstering financial literacy among school going children, my daughter was given a project where she had to visit a bank branch and find out details of various types of accounts, interest rates, opening formalities, and so on. She went with her mother to the branch of the bank where my wife and I have accounts for over a decade and my daughter herself has a "minor account" for a couple of years. Far from being greeted by their names, the branch staff shooed them away and told them to visit the bank's website to find out more. I guess they are so drunk on the digital channel Kool-Aid that they won't be able to spot a customer even if one walked in through their front door.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 20 June, 2013, 08:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I think we mix a couple of things here - I have had the same banking rep with my bank for over 10 years but I have never met her, it has all been done over the phone - we have a relationship above me walking into my branch and dealing with a random memeber of staff as she knows my history - as I share hers.

So personal relationships are important - but it is not vital to have bricks and mortar in every town to achieve that.

 The challenge I feel for banks is a more human one - I am no expert on these matters - by the paradox I feel is that the type of person who will make a good cashier, vital for bank branch operation,  does not share the same traits as a cross selling relationship building sales person.

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