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Environments
A Checklist for Branch Benchmarking
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by CHELSEA HINKEL

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Top 5 principles for assessing the current state of your branch network and preparing for the future

In their recent Future Branches presentation, Adrenaline’s president and CEO Sean Keathley and CXO Gina Bleedorn evaluated the current state of branch banking in the U.S. and provided insights into ways to reimagine banking’s physical channel from a cost center to a growth center. While every industry is facing immediate and direct impacts to their businesses in the face of COVID, there is undoubtedly going to be a domino effect of disruption, an even bigger wave impacting both the overall economy and consumer behavior. What are banks doing to prepare for the coming storm? 

We’ve prepared a checklist for bank brands to assist in evaluating the health of their current branch networks and priming them for the future, no matter what the future may hold.  

Here are five key measures to inform branch decision-making: 

1. Evaluate branch health

Even before the pandemic, there were branches that weren’t achieving their fair share in the market. These underperforming branches don’t necessarily have to be immediately closed post-COVID, but they must be addressed in some way to avoid shuttering in the future. Is staff properly trained? What business is still taking place at the branch and is there a way to migrate some of it to more cost-effective platforms like digital or mobile? Does the branch fit the way consumers want to bank? Branch health assessments are critical.

2. Understand market data

Knowing that banks can’t close their way to profitability, they will need to find a way to optimize branches. That may mean downsizing in some markets and investing more heavily in growth markets. Understanding and using market data to inform branch network decision-making is key. One trend happening pre-COVID was the slowing of growth in major metros and an increase migration to suburbs, exurbs, and secondary cities. This trend presents an opportunity to expand to areas where real estate is not at such a premium. 

3. Augment digital channels now

The pandemic has resulted in consumers being pushed to find new ways of banking in our new COVID world. Consumer adoption of digital has gone through the roof during the pandemic and its unlikely habits will revert back to pre-pandemic “norms.” Finding ways to enhance digital channels will help banks meet consumer demand. While digital channels aren’t in and of themselves a primary driver for banking relationships, they are part of the laddering strategy that allows consumers to bank the way they want to – now and in the future. 

4. Find remediation strategies

With the strain on the branch network, remediation strategies can help reduce pressure on staffed, in-person banking at the branch. Using remotely staffed drive up ITMs is one way to maintain that consultation-centered human touch while still safely distancing for consumers. The cost investment for deploying these units is much less than opening even a micro branch format and has the additional benefit of unleashing the Network Effect in both new and existing markets. 

5. Build on operational efficiencies

Incorporating efficiency into the branch network – even during a pandemic – is a necessary step toward building a resilient future branch network. Whether it’s hub and spoke or cluster management, using efficiency as a guiding hand will help banks both contain costs and maximize outputs at the branch level and beyond. One innovation that’s transforming banking is cash automation inside the branch. This technology frees staff from counting cash and empowers them to prioritize consultation inside the branch.

One element of branch banking that’s difficult to put on a checklist is how banks prioritize trust-building. That’s largely because trust plays out in a million different ways at financial institutions across the country in every interaction. During the pandemic, consumers are relying on their financial institutions as never before. Whether it’s PPP or loan forgiveness during tough times, community banks and credit unions are where consumers look for a steady hand and a personalized response. While time-saving used to be a prized consumer commodity, trust is now the defining factor in banking, both now and in the future. Community banks and credit unions should be finding ways to build it every day. 

For more information on bank branch reopening in the post-COVID landscape, download our Roadmap to Reopening. For support in providing staff members with holistic and ongoing training in the post-COVID bank branch, see our Frontline Staff Training modules. If you are a financial institution needing advice and expertise now, you can contact Adrenaline’s financial services experts at covidready@adrenalineagency.com or call (678) 412-6903. If you’d like to speak with one of branch optimization experts, contact us at info@adrenalineagency.com. 



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.


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