By : Colin Gordon
April 03, 2018 12:00 PM
Branch banking still has an important role to play in the modern retail banking industry. The chief reason for this is that customers still value and expect personal service when they need advice on a big transaction or financial decision.
But to ensure that your branch network remains cost-efficient and financially viable, it has now become essential to take advantage of the latest in digital transformation solutions. Having the right tools and systems in place can help to ensure that you deliver maximum convenience and satisfaction for the customer, while keeping costs under control.
In the era of maximum availability and consumer convenience via mobile and online channels, banks should not be asking whether the branch still has a part to play, but how it can complement these new touchpoints and continue to deliver unique, valuable services.
There are encouraging signs on this front. In a recent survey by consulting firm Synechron and global non-profit organization Efma, 88 percent of banking executives said physical branches add value for customers and will contribute to the future of the industry.
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) had plans to revise their branch model, in line with digital transformation targets. The most common goals when undertaking a branch transformation strategy are to improve customer service and engagement (42 percent), evolve the role of branch staff (40 percent), introduce digital interactive experiences (38 percent) and roll out automated self-service technologies (36 percent).
David Horton, head of innovation at Synechron, said: "Bank branches have played a critical role in the development and success of retail banking in modern times and they will continue to play an important role, but our new report with Efma shows that the model must change and adapt to support today's digital customer."
By looking at the global picture, we can see that digitally focused branch transformation is delivering benefits in various markets.
One provider that has made a commitment to the future of its physical banking network is Bank of the West. The San Francisco-based bank is very much a digitally focused operation, but has no plans to abandon its bricks-and-mortar sites. Speaking to PYMNTS.com, Jamie Armistead, executive vice-president of digital channels for Bank of the West, said most consumers - even tech-savvy millennials and digital natives - still want the reassurance of having a physical branch nearby.
"When we look at our customers, we see that a majority of accounts are still opened in branches," Mr. Armistead said. "We see a harmony between digital capabilities and the branches."
In India, Canara Bank recently launched its first fully digital branch in the southern city of Bengaluru. The branch provides services including customer account opening via fingerprint and iris authentication, printing of debit cards and online banking registration. MG Ajayan, the company's chief information officer, said: "The bank, to push its digital agenda, has equipped itself with a suite of next-generation banking tools which use advanced technology to streamline services and improve efficiency."
With financial institutions taking the right approach and continuing to invest in next-generation technologies to manage costs and drive the customer experience, the branch will have a key role to play in the retail banking industry of the future.