What is a branch, really?
While I hold firm to the idea that what we consider the “traditional” brick-and-mortar location is not going away anytime soon, it is an almost certainty that the concept of what a branch “is” will continue change dramatically over the next 2…5…10…years…both from the standpoint of a place where customers physically go to perform banking transactions as well as the continuing evolution of virtual banking.
This article from American Banker / Credit Union Journal focuses primarily on video banking via mobile, but that’s really just one approach across a broad spectrum of branch strategy, evolution, and transformation:
…customers want a mixture of options — mobile video, branches where customers can meet with bankers in person and by video and virtual assistants…when interacting with their bank.
For years, there has been an industry focus on transforming the physical branch – to be less transaction-based and more experiential. The go-to example was (and still is, in many cases) the Apple Store / Apple Genius Bar concept. And while FI’s are right to continue to evaluate and innovate around their existing branch network, it is imperative that they marry their brick-and-mortar strategy with evolving technologies and capabilities.
Ten to fifteen years ago, when many of the largest banks began discussing these strategies and approaches, we didn’t have the advanced capabilities to support the concepts. The thinking was there around self-service, on-demand banking, channel integration, but the ability to execute (flawlessly / seamlessly) was not. That has certainly changed now, or at least has evolved dramatically. The smart phone is ubiquitous. Tablets are everywhere. We have advanced / interactive ATM’s, automated (AI) chat systems, mobile video capabilities…just to name a few of our technological advancements!
Going forward, the best customer / member experience will be delivered via multiple, integrated channels with no differences in service levels, functionality, or capabilities. It’s the idea of a customer being able to bank “when they want, how they want, where they want” (through whatever device they want).