Branch Banking Is Dead, The Easter Bunny & Other Myths
As I started my new role at Reflexis, it seemed like a good time to brush up on the current climate in branch banking, so I did what any good geek would do—my homework. I interviewed friends and former colleagues. I read every article I could find on banking. I reviewed surveys and industry research. It quickly became clear that there are as many opinions about the future of branch banking as there are ATMs in Times Square.
Fortune Tellers and the Future of Branch Banking
Some analysts are declaring that the branch is dead and digital is the only future. However, this group seems to be trying to read the future in a crystal ball, rather than making predictions based on the evidence. The fact is that 55% of US adults still prefer face-to-face conversations with their bank. Even 93% of millennials want some in-person interaction with their bank. (Robert Meara, Celent).
The idea that the branch is dead is an urban legend—a scary story that’s fun to repeat, but not worth putting too much stock in. The truth is that the branch is changing. People go there less for routine transactions like cashing a check, making a deposit, or getting kids lollipops. Banks no longer need huge buildings with lines of tellers to take deposits and hand out cash, thanks to the ATM and mobile deposit. Branches can now be physically smaller, but the number of staff and the types of roles they need is also evolving.
Branch Fitness Versus Fad Diets
Given there are fewer routine transactions, many banks are trying to get their branches to their fighting weight, slimming down their brick-and-mortar footprint and trimming staff. However, it’s not enough to go on a banking crash diet, branches also need to build strength. They need bankers that can handle more complex sales and servicing, which are harder to accomplish online, via mobile, or in the contact center. As a result, they also need specialists, sometimes with specific licenses, to have more in-depth financial conversations with customers. Additionally, banks want to make the branch more attractive to higher margin customers; taking inspiration from retailers, banks are improving their customer experience and redesigning branches in everything from cafés, to grocery stores, to hair salons (maybe not the last one, but call me for ideas).
Like any fitness routine, branch transformation takes effort and commitment to see results. Branches don’t just need universal bankers and specialists at one branch for a forty hour work week. In order to attract and retain customers, these roles need to be available when customers want to interact, later in the evening or on the weekend, and they may need to support multiple branches. Todays’s workforce, influenced by the gig economy and the presence of millennials, also expects easier and more flexible scheduling options from employers. For many banks the tools or policies to allow for such nimble staffing and scheduling are still a work in progress.
The Easter Bunny and Branch Productivity
Of course there’s another reason that, even with their branches on a diet, more banks haven’t seen increased sales, lower costs, and improved customer satisfaction scores. “Easter Bunny” teams hide diet-busting chocolate eggs around the branch, impeding employee productivity. As staffing planners, operations execs, and branch strategy teams continue to support the branch fitness process, Easter Bunny teams (for example, product management, brand, security, experience, or IT) derail optimization efforts with non-customer branch activities. Although they profess that all their requests and tasks are coordinated to have the least amount of impact on the branch and will almost certainly not reduce time with the customer, that’s about as likely as a bunny laying chocolate eggs.
So how do banks actually minimize the impact of these activities on customer experience? Instead of chasing the Easter bunny on an egg hunt, get all of your eggs in one basket. Consolidating all the actions, tasks, and requests for branch staff in one place enables branches to accurately prioritize these tasks and more clearly understand how much time they take. This data can then be fed into staffing models and schedules so that total branch workload is accounted for. This empowers branches to maintain client experience levels and ensure there is still time to have conversations with clients about their individual goals.
So aside from the fact that the Easter Bunny kills diets and that bank branches aren’t dead, what did I learn from my research? I now understand why Reflexis has been pulled banking, having powered similar transformation for retailers with functionality that simplifies complex network staffing and empowers branch productivity. The timing and opportunity are right for their Reflexis ONE for Banking platform, a unified solution for forecasting network staffing, optimizing employee scheduling, simplifying branch activities, and ensuring operational excellence.
To learn more about branch banking myths and solutions for branch transformation, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or join us at CBA Live, April 1-3 in Washington DC.