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Bank branches were once pillars of our communities, but what’s next for the local bank?

Bank branches were once pillars of our communities, but what’s next for the local bank? 1

Matthew Phillips, Vice President, Head of Financial Services UK & Ireland, Diebold Nixdorf

Is the bank branch a thing of the past? In short, not if banks listen to their customers and create engaging branch formats. Will bank branches continue to be community hubs within our society? Yes, I fully believe that the future path for the industry is that branches will continue the shift to being customer focused advice centres. They will enable customers to experience an improved and convenient banking experience, alongside continued access to services through enhanced technology.

Banks have spent the last decade focusing on their digital strategies and investing in improving – or establishing – their online customer experience. In a world that is fast evolving and where the future is digital, there is no doubt that high street banks must, and are, responding to the needs of digital customers. But not every customer requirement is digital and there is still an essential role for physical branches. Customers still want access to in-person advice and guidance around products and services.

Our recent research showed that before the first UK lockdown, just over a third (36%) of bank customers did the majority of their banking in a physical branch. While this number dipped during lockdown (11%), according to the research, many consumers will return to bank branches after lockdown ends (28%). This anticipated bounce back demonstrates that for many customers the ability to bank in branch is still important. The research also highlighted that over a third (35%) of customers say they will always want access to physical in-branch banking services in some capacity.

To drive future success banks will be focused on the delivery of key services to their customers. Customers are asking for both online and in-person services and the ability to flex between them seamlessly. Making this happen, is where future success lies.

Community will always be at the heart of the services provided by banks, with a personalised service being a key part of the consumer experience. For most branches, personal interaction and face-to-face advice will be supported by self-service technology, delivering the crucial balance between convenience and value-added services. Other smaller branches may shift to a fully self-service experience with a flexible range of transactions, future-proofing a sustainable service model for all consumers.

Whilst there is no doubt that the look and feel of the branch will continue to evolve to meet an increasingly digitised landscape, the bank branch remains a crucial consumer channel. Through technology, adopting agility and delivering a more connected service, local banking services can remain at the heart of our communities for each and every person.

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