We have been hearing forever that the bank branch is dead, that electronic banking will completely replace the brick and mortar office for banking.
But it just isn’t so.
There are 120,000 bank branches in the country today; 20,000 of those were built in the last decade, so it is hard to make the case that branches are going away.
But perhaps you can make the case that they are changing. Branches are getting smaller, the need for drive-up facilities seems to be declining, and banks are increasingly using their branch as a means of promoting their brand.
Research shows people still love to come to a branch to make a deposit. They are reassured by their ability to deliver checks or cash to an actual person at a branch. There is a sense of comfort in handing that over to a teller, as opposed to leaving it somewhere unattended. Remote deposit capture is catching on, but many people still have a psychological need to visit with a person when they are transporting money from their hands to the bank’s hands.
Research also shows that a branch is the preferred place for people to go when they have a problem to resolve with their bank. Phone service can be frustrating, and trying to resolve a problem via computer can be even more frustrating. A skilled personal banker, who knows how to listen with empathy, brings a lot of comfort to a customer shaken by a perceived error or other problem.
But Kevin Blair, president of a company called NewGround, recently urged bankers at an industry meeting to think hard about the role of their branches. He said customers are evolving and branches will need to evolve with them if they intend to remain relevant. He encouraged bankers to take a close look at the technology that is available to them to help deliver financial services. He said this kind of technology will become even more important to designing successful branches.
Watch for the April 15 edition of NorthWestern Financial Review magazine, where we will feature bank architecture. Several experts will share their thoughts about what makes for a successful bank building.