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Branches need to evolve - or they will wither

Over recent months, many young customers in America have choosen to switch to banks that don’t have branches such as Simple(bank) in US or are using companies that are not traditional banks like Square or Paypal. Moreover, young customers think that branches do not offer anything unique.

A survey from Accenture 2014 North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey “The Digital Disruption in Banking”, of nearly 4000 people shows 27% would consider opting for a branchless bank. This rises to 39% among 18 to 34 year olds - but drops to 16% among people over 55. These customers believe their relationship with banks is purely transactional. They look to their branches less as a source of financial advice.

So the bell is tolling for bank branches. Either banks need to re-orient their branches around these customer needs – or close those branches down. So what are the expectations of these young hip things? How do banks need to change their approach to serve these customers?

Bankers should develop their role as a trusted financial advisor to create a strong impact on younger customers. Many customers – especially young ones – are nervous about their finances and look for advice and support. However, branch staff have become seen as sales machines. This has turned customers off and driven them to the internet.  So banks need to try something else. Customer advisors should be more focused on helping customers over the long term – rather than focusing on short term sales targets. They should be able to review customer account analysis and help customers plan their finances – not just sell products. By making personal financial management tool available in branch, customer advisors could adivse. This will help customers to feel that they are benefiting from branches again.

Banks will also have to upgrade themselves by utilizing some of the latest technologies. Creating a more modern look and feel will encourage customers to walk through the doors. For example, using tablets to enable customers to input transaction details and reduce queuing time will directly impact customer’s perceptions and give the sense that the bank cares about the service time. A strong trustworthy relationship needs to be built with customers. If a customer believes that they are financially benefiting from the advice given by banks through branches, then branches will continue to play a role



Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 06 June, 2014, 06:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Banks need to strike a happy balance between the human factor and technology interface in branch banking.

If not by using technology, how mass banking would be able to get to financial advising. With limited human resources in this area, banks could use technology for the initial pitching followed by the human factor.

Today, technology has enabled the next gen customer to handle his day-to-day banking with much ease and without the need to visit a branch.  Beyond this purpose, when he visits his bank, he is looking for that "experience" factor. In this regard, branches have to evolve to delight customers.

Unfortunately, advent of technology in banks has been misconstrued as a replaceable factor to human interface. If branch concept banks is to survive, human bonding is an essential factor.

Though, banks are using relationship manager concepts, it has not reached up to financial advising.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 06 June, 2014, 09:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

First it is important to understand that 'trust' is the most important element in the banking industry. Imagine if there was no trust, what will be the impact of bad loans on depositors. The run on a bank will push it to liquidity crises.  To draw a clear line of demarcation, the self service component of banking is being done online. There are serivices that require assistance from a bank's teller or a manager. This can be offered only in a branch. Not all are exotic services.  Branches will remain as pillars of trust for a bank. the products and services will ofcourse change with times.  

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