In this digital age of speed and convenience, bank branches remain valuable to customers. The number of U.S. bank branches has shrunk by more than 3,000 since 2010, yet most customers still regularly rely on physical banks to make deposits, withdraw money, and even pay bills.
Branches also provide easy access to banking services, which is why location and proximity remains the number one attribute for customers in choosing their primary bank, reinforcing the need to maintain bank branches at convenient locations.
These customers want the human connection that branches provide — especially when reaching important financial milestones such as opening their first bank account or seeking a home loan. It is no surprise that live, in-person interactions yield higher customer-satisfaction scores. It is evident that while more Americans are banking online, customers still enjoy the experiences that only physical banks can provide. Relationships like these play a large part in building and maintaining strong banking institutions, satisfied customers, and sustainable communities.
Banking through digital platforms
We believe in implementing an evolving strategy that provides an integrated user experience across digital and physical platforms. Traditionally, customers would visit a branch to open checking and deposit accounts, apply for loans, or open a credit card. That is still an option, however many customers have no problem completing these banking needs online as well. Banks that have not yet implemented technological solutions should first focus on developing digital tools for common banking tasks such as mobile banking, mobile deposit, person-to-person payments, and opening accounts online. Of course, banks should not stop there — consumers are turning to their trusted financial institutions to complete more advanced tasks online: applying for credit, securing loans, and more. Next up on our digital check-list are enhanced online and mobile banking platforms, and new online mortgage prequalification and application tools. All of this will greatly improve our customers’ digital experience and provide them additional channels to bank as they choose.
Over the years, we have all seen banking evolutions. When the ATM was first introduced back in the 80s, it took nearly 20 years for half of all Americans to take advantage of this self-service convenience. Soon after the spike in ATMs, came online banking, which picked up in popularity even faster than its predecessor. Mobile banking is a convenient service with nearly half of our customers ages 18-34 preferring the app for their mobile-banking needs. Mobile banking is not just for the millennial generation either, as there is a rise in Gen Xers and Baby Boomers also seeing the benefits of banking with a mobile app. With an increase in users turning to mobile banking, financial institutions must stay up-to-speed on digital trends and technology as it will be key to attracting and retaining customers. Mobile banking is no longer a digital luxury but a necessity, as consumers have adapted to banking through their smartphones.
With so many facets of banking undergoing change in the digital age, it is crucial for banks to stay ahead of technology trends wherever it makes sense. With this in mind and knowing that consumers desire person-to-person interaction, banks cannot forget to focus attention on their physical branches while investing in technological improvements. It is imperative for banks to complement their brick-and-mortar presence with innovative digital solutions in order to continue to engage and retain customers during this time of digital transformation.
Mark Tryniski is president and CEO of Community Bank, N.A. and its bank holding company, Community Bank System, Inc. (NYSE: CBU).