This week’s announcement that most of TSB’s Scottish branches will only open for two or three days a week from July once again illustrates the changing face of retail banking across the UK. In making the decision, TSB has set out figures showing the fall in branch visits by customers, while there has been a sharp increase in the use of online and phone banking, and visits to alternative branches.
TSB is not alone, consumer group, Which has estimated that there are over 1000 bank and building societies that have closed down, or plan to close down, in 2018 and 2019.
There are a number of reasons why the retail bank footprint is changing. Partly retail banks are increasingly competing with digital challenger banks, and are therefore putting larger investments into improving digital offering (apps) and digitalization of the branches. At the same time, customer’s needs and requirements are shifting.
An effective physical branch footprint is still an advantage
There is a widespread understanding that there is still a great advantage to having a physical branch footprint, but there has been some difficulty in finding the right balance, partly because banks have been collecting large amounts of informative data, but many have not been using the data to its full potential – to really understand their customers, and what they want.
This viewpoint will then go on to discuss the following areas:
- Knowing your data – understanding the data is the first step to being able to utilise it in the business and this requires banks to relook at the data it is currently capturing (to locate any gaps), the format it comes in, and its accessibility.
- Knowing the customer – once the complexity and pitfalls of the data are fully understood a bank is then able to better understand the needs and habits of its customers – for instance – the channels and touchpoints they are using/they prefer.
- Listening to customers – Customers want to feel like they are treated like people and want convenience for the services they require. Branches should therefore not be treated as ‘One-size-fits-all’. People vary in their habits, so a bank retail footprint should reflect what they want and need rather than what is assumed they might need.
- A regional approach – Customers in different towns, cities or regions may differ in what services they use digital channels for, what level of face-to-face interaction they want, how open they are to using technology alternatives in branch (and connected to the TSB announcement), when they need the branch to open.
Banks need to unlock the power of their data to make more strategic, customer-centric decisions to minimise overheads and increase customer satisfaction on the ground. Taking this approach will reshape branch networks for the future.