How Bank Branches are Going to Evolve

November 1, 2013 Gurpreet Matharu

The advent of mobile banking granted consumers the ability to pay bills, deposit cheques and, in the near future, applying for financial products (such as credit cards) right from their mobile device. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect with today’s bank branches and are nowhere near as effective or cost effective as they once were, as a PWC report points out:

Customers’ use of online and mobile technology for their banking needs has grown rapidly. With the convenience of digital channels, customers are visiting branches less often. According to a 2011 survey, 62% of respondents said the Internet is their preferred banking method. Only 20% selected branch banking—a sharp decline compared with 2007 when nearly 40% of respondents preferred to bank at a branch.

This has significant implications. According to The Globe and Mail, Canada has almost 10,000 bank branches (including credit unions). The branches operations costs exceed more than $10 billion annually. Branches need to adapt to technological changes and the way that consumers are banking today; it’s time to redesign the branch experience, and change the traditional way of banking.

The Branch of the Future

Rather than the full-service experience it is now, branches will resemble a self-service stop for users. The branch will simply serve as a compliment to customers’ current mobile banking experiences.

Today, if a customer wants to apply for a mortgage, credit card, or a deposit account, she can’t do it on her mobile device. Instead, she has to go to the branch and endure a long, drawn-out process of printing, filling out, and signing documents, while the bank staff perform credit checks. Someone eventually inputs all that handwritten information into a computerized system. Instead of this convoluted method, banks can offer self-service kiosks where customers can learn about and apply for products (similar to the transition from tellers to ATMs).

Once they’ve employed a kiosk approach, similar to what ING Direct did with their ING Direct Cafes, banks can then create a more integrated experience from a mobile device to the same system running the kiosks. The ability to apply for products via smartphone or tablet gives customers flexibility to self-serve their financial needs.

Personalized Service

With the new information they’re getting from mobile devices, Financial Advisors (FAs) can provide a significantly greater level of service. For example, FAs could be notified that one of their clients just walked into the branch, or they could examine a new client’s recent history before chatting with them in order to establish greater context.

Once the activities that need to be done by a human are complete (e.g., ID verification), clients can continue registration activities on-the-go, as their mobile banking app will be synced with the kiosks in the branch.

Reducing Costs

Clients inputting information on mobile devices means that there won’t be as many staff required for administration. Essentially, staff will simply need to verify information with several spot-checks; the process will be quicker and simpler.

An additional layer of mobile activity at branches also means that banks can predict when their peak hours or days will be, and staff as accordingly. Overall, fewer branch locations will be necessary because a growing number of tasks can be accomplished on mobile devices. Naturally, this also means fewer staff required to manage and maintain the smaller number of branches. Taking all these activities to mobile will be much more environmentally-friendly, and save a ton of resources.

Smarter Application Forms

Mobile devices can use authorization, such as information from a previous transaction (or data from your first time filling the fields out), to autocomplete personal sign-in fields (e.g., first/last name, e-mail) and their stored credentials to pre-populate banking fields (account numbers, address, etc.). The most sensitive pieces of information, such as Social Insurance Numbers, will only be able to be input manually. Nonetheless, saving time on all those other fields will allow both users and banks to save time and money.

As you can imagine, the process to apply for a product via tablet compared to applying via paper is much faster and more efficient. The banking experience in branches should resemble a user’s experience on their mobile device — fast and easy to navigate, but also integrated. Similar to how fields can be pre-populated on a mobile device, customers should also have the ability to walk into a branch, tap a tablet with their mobile device, and pre-populate all their information (either through NFC or some other technology).

Mobile Branches

Many banks travel to university campuses to sign students up for loans and credit cards. They set up a pavilion, a bunch of tables with mountains of pamphlets, and the staff actively try to bring passersby in.

An app that fills out information means that banks can process more customers and not let time constraints (e.g., class) break deals for them. This portable, streamlined application process means costs are reduced and revenues go up.

Closing Thoughts

Rather than acting as the hub of all banking, branches will become an alternate channel for customers to conduct their banking. With the possibilities of personalized service, smarter application forms, and mobile branches, banks now have much more effective potential methods of gaining and retaining customers.

Connect with Deepak on LinkedIn.

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