As such an unprecedented global event, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into the air a lot of questions about the future of banking.
However, what has been clear is that technology has played a key role in keeping people financially secure throughout lockdown, and that it will continue to play a vital role in banking throughout 2020 and beyond.
New research from EY reveals COVID-19 has had a big impact on consumer banking behaviours – 43% of respondents said the way they bank has changed due to COVID-19 and 44% noted purchasing decisions will be negatively impacted where they see banks focusing on maximising profits during this time.
It also found only 17% trust financial institutions in a time of crisis. This signals that banks need to keep the customer front of mind in every planning decision. Technology is critical to helping them understand their customers, meet their needs, deliver slick service and maximising satisfaction to drive customer loyalty.
As we emerge from lockdown, banks need to think carefully about their next move – not only how they will support their business and shareholders but also how they will contribute to supporting communities and the wider economy.
The aforementioned research found half of respondents’ future purchasing decisions will be impacted by banks actively supporting the community, being transparent and ensuring they are doing good for society. Reimagining the bank branch will be imperative.
But what will bank branches be like post-pandemic? Branches will be digital, remote, lean and shared.
The NextGenBranch will first and foremost be digital. Old, legacy systems will be replaced by modern, customer-centric and cloud-based technology that allows banks to deliver outstanding omnichannel experiences.
Today’s customers use a variety of ways to access banking services interchangeably and expect movement between each one – such as from their laptop to their online banking app to their bank branch – to be seamless.
A cloud native ‘n-tier’ architecture like Auriga’s WinWebServer (WWS) would allow not just easier integration of customers’ own devices (COD) with ATMs and other digital channels, but also customer information to be shared across every channel, making it easy for banks to track customer journeys and engage with customers at the right time and with the right information.
This means that when a customer enters a branch with a query, staff can pull up any previous correspondence they have had with another member of staff to avoid the customer having to repeat their question, and use that intelligence to provide the most useful response and offer product recommendations quickly.
This means the bank can build positive relationships and take advantage of opportunities to upsell too.
With the right technology, bank branches in the future will not only survive in rural and remote areas but also thrive, critical to protecting easy access to financial services for people living outside towns and cities.
According to Ofcom’s latest Access and Inclusion Report, 12% of consumers living in rural areas in the UK have no internet access at home, indicating that if they are not able to use online banking from where they live and have no bank branches or ATMs nearby, they could be completely cut off from quick access to cash and standard banking services.
Banks have a responsibility to people, to provide support and assurance on service availability, and to be maintain a consistent presence in communities connecting consumers with their money.
The key to keeping rural branches profitable is digital self-service technology, which also allows customers to benefit from bank staff assistance remotely via video assistance. Auriga’s new advanced remote banking solution Bank4Me is designed to do just that – answer the need for more sophisticated customer care using audio and video banking channels via digital video terminals within private areas of branches.
It allows banks to support customers anytime, day or night, as they are not tied down to one time zone or geography.
Plus, banks can ensure the staff they are assigning to customers are the best person possible to help them with their query, such as those with specific expertise in mortgage applications or those trained in sign language to support customers with hearing loss, boosting satisfaction and speed of query resolution too.
Next-generation branches will be lean, meaning they will use technology that enhances process efficiency and optimises performance.
AI and automation, for example, can dramatically transform everyday branch operations by automatically carrying out time-consuming, mundane and repetitive tasks.
This allows customer-facing employees to be able to spend more time focusing on more complex activities that require the added value of human interaction, such as difficult customer service requests, as well as more time to train themselves in new skills.
Almost all branch staff in the future will be skilled in multiple areas and informed by AI-driven analytics.
So, where traditional branches are no longer profitable, the NextGenBranch can deploy a lean branch strategy as a way to drive efficiency and improved results as well as deliver a cost effective alternative to closing operations in that location.
In the future, bank branches will not just be a place to open a new bank account or pay in a cheque. Banking leaders will realise the benefits of creating ‘white label’ branches whereby the space and/or technology is shared with other banks or organisations to generate additional streams of income.
This opens the door to countless possibilities – post-pandemic bank branches could contain community information hubs, coffee shops, libraries, post offices, gyms and more. Not only would this make branches more profitable due to the income from the partner organisation sharing the space, it could also increase visitor numbers to the branch – driving satisfaction, loyalty and long-term revenue for the bank.
NextGenBranch is possible
The Bank of Scotland has already successfully trialled its new branch concept in Glasgow, Scotland, proving this is no such pipe-dream but something that is already possible today.
The next generation of bank branches will be smarter, more efficient and more profitable, enabling banks to deliver better experiences to drive customer loyalty and sales.
What is most exciting is that all the technology banks need to make them a reality is already available – they just need to invest and they can start to reap the rewards.