Thriving after COVID-19: Branch adaptation, not abandonment, will be key
Report examines the future of credit unions, bank branches.
MILWAUKEE, WI (April 21, 2020) — Today, La Macchia Group released a white paper examining how physical bank and credit union branches will need to adapt to be successful in a post-pandemic world.
La Macchia Group’s analysis found that the branch, as a means to access experts, is perceived as particularly valuable for those whose confidence is their financial situation is low. In the wake of the pandemic, the branch may serve a critical role in fostering those expert connections.
“Financial institutions were already seeing a trend toward more consultative space within branches, as consumers desired expert guidance through key financial decisions,” said Tom Kennedy, President of La Macchia Group. “The need for consultation with financial experts will be amplified as more consumers seek to adjust or rebuild their finances post COVID-19.”
While the physical branch will likely have enhanced value post-pandemic, La Macchia Group found that there will be a critical need to modify physical spaces in a response to post-pandemic human psychology.
“We cannot ignore how COVID-19 and social distancing has shifted our feelings, thoughts and beliefs about how to interact in public spaces,” said Kennedy. “If people are uncomfortable with the physical set-up of a branch, they will pursue alternative channels – or alternative institutions – that make them feel safe.”
Modifications that put public health and safety as a top priority will be highly valued. Automatic doors, thermal scanners at entry points and/or natural barriers to create physical separation are among an array of options to consider. Equally as important will be the ability to communicate these modifications, and the financial institution’s preparedness, to consumers digitally to ease hesitation and welcome consumers back to the physical branch.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
As financial institutions consider how best to prepare for the post-pandemic consumer, La Macchia Group recommends the following considerations, based on research and insights into consumer trends and behaviours:
Be the Expert
After experiencing new challenges, financial losses and overall uncertainty, consumers will crave knowledge and control over every aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to their finances. Consumers look to people as experts and trust financial institutions more when they have physical branches. Showcasing the consultative space of your branch, and positioning your individual experts, will build trust and ultimately relationships.
Create Community Connection
Historically, financial institutions have played a critical role in the definition of a community. Returning to these roots post COVID-19 will be an opportunity for financial institutions to create safe, community spaces that allow for social connection, education and engagement. Key to the success of this approach will be the financial institution’s ability to effectively tell its community impact story in a way that compels engagement and investment from members of the community.
Consumers have become used to instant access but have begun to indicate digital fatigue, which will only be exasperated given safer at home orders across the country. Post COVID-19, consumers will be seeking experiences to escape the digital environment but will simultaneously have a newfound concern of the safety of crowds and public spaces. As a result, financial institutions will be required to enable digital connection as a means to communicate preparedness, precautions and proof that physical spaces are safe and that those physical spaces can serve as a respite from the digital experience.
“It is without question that the COVID-19 pandemic will change the financial services industry, serving as a catalyst for some and an accelerant for others,” said Kennedy. “Historically, uncertain times have provided significant opportunity for organizations that look ahead with optimism and choose to adapt.”
To download La Macchia Group’s whitepaper, visit https://www.lamacchiagroup.com/adaptabilitywp
About La Macchia Group
Through its proven methodology of Plan-Brand-Design-Build-Evolve, La Macchia Group designs and builds market-driven, brand-centered financial institutions, tailored to meet each client’s unique needs. As the trusted development partner of more than 400 financial institutions across the nation, La Macchia Group creates exceptional environments that foster customer relationships and provide a competitive advantage with measurable results. For more information, visit www.lamacchiagroup.com.