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Branches on the precipice as Brits embrace digital banking

08 July 2014  |  11887 views  |  2 London  Bridge

Mobile and internet banking is now being used for transactions worth nearly £1 billion a day in the UK, hastening the decline of the traditional bank branch, according to new data from the British Bankers Association.

The second 'Way We Bank Now' report from the banking lobby group and Ernst & Young also shows that millions of customers are using contactless cards, payment by mobile and SMS balance alerts.

The consumer love-in with mobiles and tablets is spearheading a sea-change in the way banking services are accessed, says the BBA, which finds that internet and mobile banking is now used for transactions worth £6.4 billion a week - up from £5.8 billion last year.

Banking apps for mobiles and tablets have now been downloaded more than 14.7 million times - a 2.3 million rise since January at a rate of around 15,000 per day in 2014.

The Royal Bank of Scotland last month unveiled plans to spend over £1 billion over the next three years to rebuild its retail banking business, with investment in digital channels as the primary focus.

In a presentation to investors, the UK bank shared slides showing a steady decline in branch footfall and increase in mobile banking activity, forecasting that 50% of all retail transactions will be conducted via mobile devices by 2017, as opposed to less than five percent on the high street.

Yet despite the doom-mongering, the BBA insists that the future of the bank branch is secure, pointing out that 2,274 bank branches have been refurbished in the past two years.

"While the size of these networks will decline," says the report "high street outlets will remain important for those bigger moments, such as when a customer takes out a mortgage, wants to assess their financial options or resolve a complaint."

In an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph this week, BBA chief executive Anthony Browne, pointed up another potential role for the bank branch - as a beach-head against the rising tide of new entrants to the industry: "If, as many people expect, the internet and telecoms giants become major players in the banking world in this century, a strong branch network could be a clear advantage held by the established banks."

Full report:» Download the document now 627.8 kb (PDF File)

Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 08 July, 2014, 13:38

The banks do not need large branch networks now they have joined with the Post Office for basic counter services.

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Gerard Hergenroeder
Gerard Hergenroeder - IBM - New York | 09 July, 2014, 16:47

Digital Banking is changing the way banks sell and service their consumers including small business. As behavior changes and acceptance of new digital channels increases, banks have a great opportunity to Rethink their branch models -- less real estate but more technology. But, it will take some time to transform from bricks and mortar, especially in those cases where the bank has longer term leases. It is am exciting time to be in banking!

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