Why Bank Branches Suck (And Why The Branch Of The Future Stuff Is Nonsense)

by. Ron Shevlin

Chris Skinner recently published a blog post titled Banks designed for humans, not money in which he argues that:

“Branches are banks’ retail stores but were designed for money. They were designed to handle physical forms of cash and cheques, as secure transaction centres. This is the core challenge of why everyone thinks branches will disappear. Because they are not retail stores engaging the brand community but transaction centres run like some administration process.”

In imagining — in Chris’ words — “how the branch experience becomes a retail experience fit for 2013 and beyond,” he identifies a few examples:

  • Washington Mutual (Occasio) and Umpqua removed teller counters and opened the dialogue over a face-to-face table form.
  • Caja Navarro and ING Direct instigate “community engagement” (Chris’ words) by having open house sessions. Caja Navarro offered evening classes in their stores including hair styling and flower arranging, and ING Direct offered sessions where anyone could just ask questions like: “how does a mortgage work?”
  • Umpqua allows branches to be booked in the evening for cocktail parties or business meetings.

My take: These are all interesting examples of alternative (and creative) uses of branch space, but do little or nothing to prove that the branch is an economically viable (i.e., profitable) way of doing business for banks.

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