Can Branches be Humanless

 

What about a fully-automated humanless branch — no employees at all? A physical location that is less expensive to operate without employees sounds tempting, but banking executives are mixed in their opinions about the viability branches without any staff. One-third (35%) of banks and credit unions say that a humanless branch won’t work. The rest think that it might make sense, if not today, then sometime in the future when both technologies and the consumers using them become more sophisticated.

Bank of America is experimenting with branches without people. The jury is still out on these branches, and the bank has yet to announce any additional pilots. The Financial Brand has previously described these video-conference enabled branches as simply a stopgap until financial institutions figure out how to offer consumers secure video conversations with bankers using smartphones and tablets — regardless of where either the customer or the banker are in the physical world.

Almost all bankers believe that to establish an emotional connection with consumers, you need a living, breathing human being, at least for more complex transactions. Even account opening — a pretty pedestrian transaction — can benefit from a branch.

“Even in this day and age of digital channels, the vast majority of new accounts are opened — and in most cases, complex problems are still solved in the branch, face-to-face,” says Raja Bose, VP of Global Advisory Services at Diebold Nixdorf

More than half the respondents in the Efma survey said they expect digital branch transformation projects to reduce the headcount in branches. 62% of those surveyed said they plan to reduce overall digital headcount across bank branches, 32% said they might, 11% said they had no plans to reduce headcount, and 14% of respondents didn’t yet know if they’d reduce their headcount.

Key Fact: Not one banker believes that technology can replace people when it comes to relationships. Yet at the same time, banks and credit unions are also looking to reduce headcount wherever possible.

Value Humans Add to Branches

Source: Efma/Synechron © October 2017 The Financial Brand
 

So, what to do with branches? Don’t panic, nor succumb to the hype. But Efma says you should start experimenting and prototyping their own digitally-enabled “branch of the future” that combines the humanness of the branch with self-service and digital.

“It’s about people,” says Horton with Synechron. “It’s about relationships, local knowledge, body language, smiling, being polite and generally trying to help customers that makes all the difference. No amount of technology transformation and digital alternatives can compete with empowered and motivated branch staff.”

credit: The Financial Brand, 2018

written: October 2, 2017