One of the big challenges facing large retail banks today is how best to manage their branch network.
It’s certainly a complicated issue. The growth in digital banking options is making it increasingly difficult for financial institutions to justify the cost of a large branch network, but there are many customers who still want face-to-face service from their bank.
We have seen different providers approaching this challenge in different ways. In the UK, Metro Bank is investing in its branch network, while Atom Bank, one of the biggest names on the challenger bank scene, has gone down the purely digital route.
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has adopted a strategy that seems designed to bridge the gap between branch and digital banking. The Edinburgh-based bank recently announced that a specialist ‘TechXpert’ will be placed within every RBS and NatWest branch across England, Scotland and Wales, to help customers set up and use online and mobile banking.
One of the key aims of the project is to improve familiarity with digital banking among older customers. ONS figures show that just a quarter (26 percent) of UK citizens over the age of 65 use internet banking, compared to 87 percent of 25 to 34 year-olds.
Announcing the new initiative, Jane Howard, managing director of NatWest and RBS personal banking, said the industry is “almost unrecognizable” from what it was when she started her career 36 years ago.
“While more customers than ever before are taking advantage of the convenience and simplicity of mobile and online banking, some people need further support,” Ms Howard added. “Our TechXperts will help make sure our customers are confident to make the most of the new technology, features and services we are offering them.”
The evolution of branch banking will be one of the most fascinating trends to follow in the industry over the coming years. Will the concept of the branch as we know it still exist in ten years’ time, or will customers become fully reliant on channels like digital banking and smart ATMs?