In the recent article “5 Reasons to Think Twice Before Closing Branches,” the Financial Brand provides a reality check to the bank branch closure craze, suggesting bank brands think well beyond the balance sheet when deciding how to handle a branch that has seemingly outlived its usefulness. While most bank executives and those who advise them are well aware of the credibility and reputational fallout following the closure of bank branches in a local community, decision-makers may not know what to do with those underperforming locations other than to close them down. So what’s at stake?
As we addressed in our branch optimization series “Get Network Smarter,” understanding that local branches still represent the single biggest customer acquisition channel is a good starting point. Adrenaline’s CXO Gina Bleedorn says, “Anyone who works in financial services understands that branch use by customers is on the decline. But the existence of branches continues to be of critical importance to drive consideration for customers in choosing a financial brand to do business with, because it instills an inherent sense of credibility and trust.”
For something as personal as personal finance, consumers are quite unlikely to go with a brand they’ve never heard of that has no visible branches or brand presence. Bleedorn believes that’s because total disruption hasn’t happened in the banking industry yet. She says, “The physical branch is the number one driver of acquisition and it’s because digitization of banking is not complete yet. There are a lot of things you can buy very confidently online, but banking services is still a local and a people business.” Consumers still see a purpose in the local bank branch, beyond convenience.
One of banking’s consistent advantages is its elevated role as trusted advisor to consumers in an increasingly complicated web of financial data, developments and decisions. Gina says, “When it comes to things that are more complex – anything from healthcare and taxes to insurance and finances – consumers feel like they need the advice of an expert available close-by, even if they don’t frequent a retail location that often. It’s a relationship business and proximity matters. Even with people on the move, only 4% of consumers in the country switch banks. Those relationships stick.”
Understanding how consumers define branch purpose versus how banks do is job #1 for banks. Gina says, “Physical presence continues to be critical for consumers, of course. But that physical presence has completely changed, and most of the banks in the country were built for transactions that no longer occur in them. That’s the reality. So, it’s not so much about the existential question – to close or not to close – but rather it’s a lot more nuanced than that.” It’s layered decision-making across a network – from transformation to optimization, market entry to down-sizing, and it’s changing all the time.
In our next article on branch purpose, we will look at how brands are taking to heart the adage to “Go Big or Go Home.” Identifying and understanding market realities and opportunities, bank brands are scaling for survival in a sea of competition. That’s because being a small fish in a big pond is no longer sustainable for most banks. Stay tuned to find out how financial brands decide to jump into new ponds. To speak with one of our branch optimization, bank brand and financial industry experts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adrenaline is an experience design agency that creates and implements end-to-end branded experiences through creative and environmental design. We enhance our clients’ customer experiences across digital and physical channels, from their branding and advertising to design and technology in their spaces. After transforming an organization’s brand, Adrenaline extends it across all touchpoints — from employees to the market to in-store environments. And, we focus on serving industries that sell human experiences including financial, healthcare, sports and entertainment.