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Branch still best for personal attention and expertise - Cisco survey

21 June 2012  |  5775 views  |  2 Outsourcing Strategies

Customers may be happy to carry out simple banking tasks online and through their mobile phones but when they need personal attention and expertise the old fashioned branch still wins out, according to a survey from Cisco.

The poll of 5,300 consumers spread across five developed countries (Canada, France, Germany, US and UK) and three emerging markets (Brazil, China and Mexico) suggests that people want access to a range of banking channels, both digital and physical.

Online is still the preferred channel for everyday banking tasks, with 78% of respondents from developed markets and 72% from emerging countries wanting to pay bills, manage accounts and check balances through the Web.

The mobile phone is becoming an important tool for a relatively small but growing group of people, with 13% of consumers in developed markets and 18% in emerging preferring to use their handsets for real-time expense tracking, personal finance management and payments.


Social media is still widely distrusted as a banking channel, with just one per cent of developed markets respondents and eight per cent from emerging countries indicating a preference to use it for conducting banking transactions.

Meanwhile, bricks and mortar remain important for many, with 65% of all respondents globally (56% in developed countries and 81% in emerging countries) in favour of bank branches that offer an expanded portfolio of financial and advisory services such as education, legal, accounting, tax, and insurance.

There is also strong resistance to the trend towards in-branch automation, with a quarter of all those quizzed warning that this drift from personal attention and expertise offered by real people could be enough to make them leave their provider.

One way to bridge the virtual and physical world is video and 23% of consumers in developed markets and 43% in the emerging world say the use of conferencing technology is a way to enhance the quality of advice in situations where the access to expertise is a concern.

Overall, consumers want to use all the options available to them across physical and virtual channels. Frequent users of virtual channels also visit branches more often, says Cisco.

Jorgen Ericsson, VP, global financial services practice, Cisco Internet business solutions group, says: "Banking is transforming rapidly, driven by changes in regulations, macroeconomic pressures, new customer demands, technology advancements and increased competition. A fundamentally new approach to banking is needed with an emphasis on a combination of both improving customer experience and simultaneously reducing costs. Our study shows that customers are ready for a new era, and the solution will be omnichannel banking."

Comments: (2)

Brett King
Brett King - Moven - New York | 21 June, 2012, 14:54

This is where behavioural research through observation versus survey data is really critical. When you ask consumers how they'd like to solve more complex problems, they'll often refer to the branch as a 'security blanket'. For example, consumers in the US cite that the location of a branch is in their top 5 criteria for selecting a new retail bank. However, the likelihood of them visiting a branch is still increasingly slim.

The problem with this type of research is that the data doesn't stack up when you look at actual branch visitation. Branch visitation per customer is down dramatically in developed economies from 20-30 times a year in the mid-90s, to 2-3 times a year today, and it's in faster decline than ever before.

If you ask customers, they'll say yes they need a branch for sticky problems - this is what the survey shows. If you observe their behavior, that psychology doesn't translate to actual visits. So if you're looking at profitability, the intent doesn't translate to revenue.

I'm afraid this survey methodology is flawed based on the other data readily available as to actual branch visits. The problem I have is that if you keep thinking mobile and web are just transactional channels, and branch is the relationship channel, what you're actually doing is simply cutting off relationship opportunities through the channels that customers are actually using. Digital channels are the first stop for relationships these days, not the branch. We need to change our thinking.

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Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune | 22 June, 2012, 16:43

Props to Cisco for getting this spot on. When I wrote about how banks could go omnichannel in my 3-part blog post Jumping On The Omnichannel Bandwagon, I was going largely by personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Happy to see research that establishes conclusively that customers really want different channels for different purposes and, at times, a combination of different channels for the same transaction. The behavior data given on slide 6 of the deck is especially telling. 

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