Is there a future for bank branches?

Is there a future for bank branches?

In the digital era how can physical branches remain relevant

Markus Schuderer, Director of European Digital Banking
Rajesh Singh, Director of Digital Transformation, North America


26 Jun 2024

Is there a future for bank branches?

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Enhance branch experiences: 6 bite-sized innovations for your bank

Branches stage a comeback

During the pandemic, bank customers flocked to digital banking. Those new to online banking found it convenient, especially for routine tasks. Many in the industry thought that the days of in-person banking had passed. Banking leaders asked if there was a future for branches. As it turns out, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Branch usage has reached or even exceeded pre-pandemic levels in the post-pandemic era, with one leading bank even reporting that it served 30% more people at branches in 2023 than in 2019. People want to visit branches at least some of the time. Service needs like account opening and specialized advisory proved to be activities that draw people into branches. Many mid-market banks and credit unions have the branches necessary to seize this opportunity to serve customers in person. Success requires turning customer visits into experiences that build trust and loyalty.

Unfortunately, investments in branches have lagged behind digital banking. Customers visit branches for the pleasantness of a prompt interaction with a person knowledgeable about their financial situation. But too often, they wait to speak with an employee lacking an omnichannel view of the customer’s situation. It’s time for banks to reimagine the in-branch experience with bite-sized innovations that reduce waiting and empower employees to connect customers to the correct banking products. 

Why bite-sized innovation?

As the most expensive distribution channel for banks, it’s tough to make a business case for large-scale investments in branch innovation. Big-bang innovations can deliver so-so results. However, incremental innovation allows you to modernize progressively with minimal disruption to branch operations. The idea is to take small bites initially. You test quickly, fail fast, and keep what works.

Here are six examples of bite-sized branch innovations:

  1. Customer navigation systems and virtual concierges 

    Consider a digital option employing touchscreens and AI as an alternative to staffed check-in desks. A virtual guidance system can make the check-in process smoother while removing the risk of human error. Such a system identifies and authenticates the customer, triggering a workflow to alert the appropriate advisor. This reduces long wait times, a pet peeve of customers visiting branches. The system can also direct customers to a self-service option for low-touch transactions.

  2. Expanded hours with video banking

    Video tellers can help bank branches offer extended hours. Digital video tellers are also ideal for assisting customers who prefer human interaction for more straightforward transactions. Video tellers can also reduce wait time without adding staff at every location.

  3. Automated and personalized appointment reminders and onboarding

    Missed or canceled customer appointments drain productivity and eliminate an opportunity to upsell to the customer. Digital appointment management addresses the crucial period after the appointment is scheduled by keeping the customer engaged with reminders. Branch employees can personalize emails, chats, and video reminders to reduce missed appointments. Reminders can link to automated onboarding to accelerate information gathering before visits.

  4. Employee omnichannel empowerment

    You achieve true omnichannel engagement only by integrating branch and digital experiences for customers and employees. An app for branch supervisors and tellers can deliver precisely that, streamlining transactions that require approvals, securing chat with colleagues inside and outside the branch, and accelerating customer service in and outside branches. Something as simple as a cash reservation system can control cash movements, helping branches address large transactions and supporting foreign exchange without inconveniencing customers.

  5. In-branch chatbots/videobots and intelligent digital assistants

    Chatbots are an excellent tool for providing instant, 24/7 customer service and increasing efficiency by managing a large volume of simple, repetitive queries. Making chatbots and videobots part of the in-branch digital experience allows branch employees to manage more complex tasks. You can also empower in-branch employees with intelligent digital assistants. These assistants can help with tasks like searching for information and accessing internal and external applications. They can also alert staff about upselling opportunities.

  6. AR/VR-based teller training

    Reskill and upskill branch tellers to make the reimagined branch a reality. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) trainers simulate real scenarios and help staff learn new in-branch technologies and techniques. VR training is a fast and cost-effective way to cultivate a selling mindset in staff while helping them master new ways of working with each other and customers. Your people can learn at their own pace and easily repeat scenarios, increasing lesson retention.

Bring transformation to branches

Can you try these bite-sized innovations at your bank or credit union? Yes, but you may find obstacles in your path. Unfortunately, many banks cannot quickly roll out new branch-based innovations due to technology and infrastructure limitations. Legacy core systems typically provide limited teller capabilities at the branches. Most in-branch teller systems are not seamlessly integrated with applications like CRM systems, much less self-service or digital channels.

Banks need a forward-looking technology stack to enable better experiences across all channels. An ideal banking digital engagement platform ensures that all users—from branch employees to service agents and customers to third-party partners—enjoy a seamless omnichannel experience. A modern approach makes it easier to bring emerging technologies, like intelligent digital assistants, into branches, service centers, and everywhere else they’ll make a difference. 

Ready to start innovating?

Axxiome & Amdocs can help you plan and deploy digital strategies in branches and beyond. We help fuel breakthrough growth by eliminating the divide between your business goals and legacy technology. Talk to us about how we can help you modernize banking from the core to the customer across all channels. 


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