Iconoclasts are forecasting the end of the retail bank branch. Simple and Moven have gone so far as to delete the word “bank” from their names, and make the rounds at industry events heralding the brave new branch-free landscape.
But US consumers and small businesses are channel omnivores. Give them mobile, online, ATM, phone and branch—all will be used by some, and some will be used by all. The cost of channel choice is great, and retail margins are on a diet, so reinvention is an economic necessity. Channel R&D is accelerating as banks large and small find the unique branch blueprint.
Look at these strategic innovators:
- Forget the movies, head to the branch. Small but mighty Umpqua Bank, with 200 “neighborhood stores” in the Pacific Northwest, is starting a “slow banking” revolution. Giant plasma touchscreens are used as “Discover Walls” to showcase neighborhood events, local merchants and podcasts. Wii bowling nights and Food Truck Tuesdays are big draws. Umpqua’s strategies add up to fast growth in key demographics: young, upscale families and small businesses.
- No longer solo, the branch is now the fulcrum of an omnichannel world. TD Bank lives their tagline—“America’s Most Convenient Bank”—legacy of the 2008 Commerce acquisition. TD’s 7-day, evening hours branch access has long been a differentiator. Now, omnichannel integration is sophisticated. Local branch manager videos and banner ads are served up in real-time by recognizing customer IP addresses. No surprise TD’s 2013 ad campaign abandons Regis and Kelly for “Bank human, again” featuring their branches as the headline act.
- Tellers are out, specialists are in. Chase, with 5600 branches, has got the yin and yang of their branch future figured out. Service costs are being squeezed through self-service kiosks: ATMs on steroids that can handle 90% of all teller transactions. At the same time, Chase is ramping sales horsepower with a six-fold increase in Private Bank branch presence , delivering 5x growth in the number of Private Bank clients since 2010. Other Sales Specialists in branch have grown 20%. And Chase’s net branch count is increasing, with new builds that are smaller and specialist-rich.
- Going virtual and mobile: PNC is working towards a vision of less physical density and more multi-channel options, reducing their branch count from today’s 2850 selectively. Going well beyond the now-familiar mobile deposit and digital/social contact center options, PNC is rapidly expanding mobile stores, street teams, community brand ambassadors and segment-specific “thin branches” that match the needs of their micromarket. Watch for the famous “PNC Conversation” to get even smarter and better.
- Cut the ad budget and buy or build branches: Since 2008, M&T has doubled in size to 725+ branches, but its footprint radius has grown a mere 27 miles. Branch density is a strategy M&T uses effectively to build brand awareness and bank profitability, and acknowledges it enables a lower advertising budget. M&T’s invested in activating branches through clever and comprehensive management of their Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills partnerships, ranging from in-branch promotions with players and shared community service programs to management of the franchise like a mega-branch, complete with sales goals. Banking Built for Baltimore demonstrates M&T’s smart leverage of branch penetration and sponsorship potential.
The answer to branch strategy isn’t as simple as develop or dismantle, reinforce or reduce. Like most strategy and marketing wins, it’s about defining a course that magnifies strengths, mitigates disadvantage and sets a course that fits your franchise, and your future.Subscribe