As customers go digital, KBC takes humans out of branches

As customers go digital, KBC takes humans out of branches

With customers continuing the migration to digital channels, Belgium's KBC is closing some branches and making others unmanned.

Like banks around the world, KBC is trying to navigate a tricky path - in the first quarter, 57% of its customers banked exclusively online and through their phones. At the same time, many customers still want the option of personal contact.

In response, KBC says it "consciously walks the path of gradualness". By the end of the year, 65 small branches in Flanders will become unmanned, while 51 existing unmanned sites will close. The change will leave KBC with 350 manned and 190 unmanned branches in Flanders.

To help explain the move, KBC has released a host of stats: Mobile banking usage is on the rise, as is web and video chat, while every month 2000 conversations with customers occur over WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, the number of transactions at cashless machines has fallen by 40% since 2014 and the number of cash withdrawals dropped by 16% over the same period. Visits to branches are down, but when customers do make a trip they have higher expectations about the services offered.

Says the bank: "With these adjustments, KBC wants to use the resources and people where the customers need them the most and thus further improve its services to the customers. In the coming years, KBC will continue to monitor the changing customer behaviour and gradually adapt its distribution network accordingly."

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