Consumers still prefer to visit their branch for simple banking transactions rather than other channels, according to new research from BT Finance Industry Solutions and The Henley Centre.
More than 600 adults in the UK were interviwed and the results show branches scoring very highly across a whole range of criteria from service and friendliness to financial advice and convenience:
* 89 per cent rate staff as 'very friendly';
* 86 per cent say branch service is 'well suited to their needs';
* 75 per cent describe financial advice in the branch as 'very helpful'; and
* 79 per cent see banks as accessible and live just 10 to 15 minutes away from their branch.
Ben Burgess, general manager, BT Finance Industry Solutions, comments: "The challenge for the banks is to keep the highly valued personal touch and automate routine transactions such as transferring money. Ensuring consistent service, no matter how customers contact the bank, is one way to encourage people to use the telephone and Internet as well as the branch."
For most people the primary purpose of the bank is to pay money in. Overall, 78 per cent would rather pay money in over the counter at a branch than via the post or a machine. This figure does not vary much among different ages or socio-economic groups.
Burgess says: "Paying in cheques...is viewed as a fundamental transaction to most people but the banks want these types of basic transactions automated. It will be the banks' level of integration and customer service that determines whether people move to the cheaper channels."
The study finds consumers would be happy to use branches within supermarkets (67 per cent), shared branches (62 per cent), mobile branches (44 per cent) and drive in branches (39 per cent). However, 98 per cent view non-banking services such as a coffee shop or a crèche as unimportant.
Marcus Hickman, The Henley Centre, says: "The research demonstrates that the branch is here to stay. Banks need to ensure that by encouraging customers to stop undertaking basic transactions in the branch and thereby reduce footfall, they don't lose the opportunity to advise customers about new products."