Consumers are drawing out less cash and using other methods to pay for things such as contactless payments, but this doesn’t necessarily signal the end of bank tellers or their automated counterparts.
There is conflicting evidence on whether or not banks are moving away from providing customers with a human face or an ATM.
Looking internationally, in 2016, Lloyds Banking Group in the United Kingdom announced that it was closing 200 branches and planning to cut 3,000 jobs, as a result of changing customer behaviour. The number of transactions carried out in branches has continued to drop and Lloyds has continued to invest heavily in digital banking instead.
In contrast to this, Metro Bank, a new UK bank, has made the branch the core of its business model, with long opening hours every day of the week and staffed stores. In 2015 Metro claim to have gained over 200,000 new customers, through its 42 stores and created 2,000 new jobs.
Domestically, the latest Australian Bankers Association (ABA) statistics reveal that in the year ending June 2015, the number of bank branches in Australia fell by 16, to 5,480 in total. The ABA data also shows that since 2001, Australian banks have increased their bank networks by 691 branches.
While this could partly be a result of some building societies and credit unions rebranding themselves as banks, it is also a reflection of the creation of sub-brands within the major banks. One example would be the Bank of Melbourne, which was acquired by Westpac in 1997 and relaunched in 2011. By April 2016 Bank of Melbourne had 106 branches spread around the state of Victoria, its ‘local’ brand helping to differentiate it from its competitors.
So there is still some emphasis on the human face of banking but what about the automated teller machine (ATM)?
Even though today’s banking customers continue to embrace self-service banking through such channels as ATMs and online and mobile banking, there is still a need for a personal touch at times. Ongoing Mercator Advisory Group Banking Channels and CustomerMonitor research reinforces this point as well, showing that personal interaction with subject matter experts remains important to banking customers. To this point, even though many customers prefer to use self-service channels for basic transactions, they prefer to have access to experts, when and where needed.
Overview by Ed O’Brien, Director, Banking Channels Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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