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The Branch Reborn

A new study by Cisco says that banks need to understand that the branch is here to stay, but it needs to be transformed.

Omni-Channel Branch
The Omni-Channel Branch
Source: Cisco ISBG

Customers still value the face time with a representative that a branch offers, with 65 percent of the respondents saying they prefer the branch for personalized attention and advice. The study predicts that the future branch will play a lesser role in transactions, which will be done virtually, and will be more focused on providing the face time and advice customers desire.

"Banks should be looking at expanding what they can advise on as well," Cisco's Farah says. He comments that banks could offer advice and services to customers on adjacent services like insurance, tax preparation and legal and notary services. The study found that 83 percent of respondents would be open to receiving such advice and services from their bank.

This will mean that banks will have to have expertise to offer in these fields, but virtual technologies will make it less expensive for banks to deliver this advice and service.

"Advice and personal attention doesn't have to come at the high cost of branches stacked with experts. Many customers are ok with using high quality video conferencing," says Farah. Cisco, which provides teleconferencing solutions, found that 28 percent of the study's participants would be interested in teleconferencing with a remote expert from their branch.

This doesn't mean that branches would just be kiosks with videoconferencing monitors, Cisco emphasized. Branch personnel would still be needed to field preliminary questions and set up the video conferences. This would give customers the authenticity of real face time with a representative in the branch while also allowing a remote expert to field questions and deliver advice to many customers from multiple branches.

"We are definitely seeing an uptick in interest in video conferencing," says Ed O'Brien, the director of Banking Channels Advisory Service at the Mercator Advisory Group. O'Brien added that financial institutions can pilot a videoconferencing solution at a branch with a high definition monitor for less than $10,000.

O'Brien also agreed with Cisco's study that branches are going to become more centered around consultative services. "You will go into a branch and the teller position will be a conduit for loans and other financial products and will be able to set up an appointment for a more licensed type of associate," he says. O'Brien suggests that videoconferencing would have the biggest impact in rural branches where banks could offer advice remotely with a live expert that customers would have to travel a significant distance to get elsewhere.

Cisco's study was conducted this past May and surveyed 5,300 customers in eight developed and emerging countries. The study also looked at developments in other channels such as mobile and social media and how they will play a role in the "omni-channel" approach outlined in the study.

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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