The branch represents something of a conundrum for modern financial institutions.
Operating a network of bricks-and-mortar sites is costly and logistically challenging, but having access to a branch remains highly important for many customers, despite the rising functionality and availability of digital banking.
According to research by management consulting firm Bain & Company, approximately 40 percent of customers who had experienced a branch closure in the 12 months prior to the survey took their business to another bank.
For providers that are committed to maintaining a network of branches where they can engage with their customers face-to-face, efficiency and cost management are big priorities.
Encouragingly, technological progress has given rise to a number of solutions and strategies that can help to maximize branch efficiency. One concept that has become particularly significant is automation.
In Greece, Piraeus Bank has experienced positive results from the introduction of three fully automated bank branches in the Attiki region.
The branches are able to stay open for longer and are equipped with features including internet banking registration points and a digital zone with computers and tablets.
More than 37,000 people have made use of the e-branches every month since they opened earlier this year, completing over 32,000 transactions.
The new sites are now processing 84 percent of the volume of transactions completed at nearby traditional branches.
Piraeus said one of the key benefits of this increase in automation is that it has given staff more time to focus on higher-value products, such as loans and mortgages.
Another institution that is embracing innovation to make its branches more efficient is San Francisco-based Bank of the West, which is investing in enhancing its in-branch digital capabilities and staffing each physical site with tech specialists.
Jamie Armistead, executive vice president of digital channels at the bank, told PYMNTS.com: “When we look at our customers, we see that a majority of accounts are still opened in branches.
“We see a harmony between digital capabilities and the branches.”