As more of the day-to-day transactional banking activity becomes self-directed via the increasingly ubiquitous personal smart device, the role of the branch office remains an “off the map” operational area with large financial service providers and community institutions alike. The search for what will resonate with consumers has launched a period of experimentation with branch set up, facilities and staffing.
But banks cannot do away with bricks and mortar entirely, as the best channel for picking up new depositors remains the humble branch. That is why some are retooling their branches as centres for advice, removing transactional staff completely — like BofA — or upgrading tellers to financial advisers.
Capital One, for example, has opened 18 branches masquerading as coffee shops, where young “ambassadors” clad in J Crew-style jeans and navy blazers offer no-strings consultations — along with a cut-price cup of Peet’s coffee.
Mercator Advisory Group has been tracking the rollout of the variety of approached, from Bank of America’s experiment the throwback to the “Auto-Mat” model to Capital One’s Financial Service Cafes, the trend of financial institutions seeking the solution to how best to maintain a productive physical presence in a cost efficient way. The acknowledgement of the shift to the advisory role FIs are increasingly playing for consumers appears to be the predominant central thought. What remains the be seen is how will most consumers want to engage with experts on the bigger more complex financial conversations, so we can expect to continue to see test marketing of the a wide variety of approaches. Community banks may have a leg up in that regard, with longstanding relationships already in place, they are in a much more trusted position to get the information, by asking.
Overview by Joseph Walent, Associate Director, Customer Interactions Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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