Data Snacks, Member Exclusive

Data Snack: The dawn of bank branch 2.0?

  • The ‘death of the branch’ saga was all the rage back in 2020.
  • But now, with back-to-routine vibes emerging, it’s time to re-evaluate the role of a bank branch.

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Data Snack: The dawn of bank branch 2.0?

In the aftermath of Covid, most people have been approaching their banking activities through their banking apps – the ‘banking app-roach’, if you will: 31% say they use their banking apps daily and 33% say they do so weekly.

It’s true; the age of digital banking is upon us – i.e. if you don’t have to go to the bank, why do it?

But branches aren’t showing any signs of vanishing from the scene.

In November, EPAM, the IT services and consulting firm, released its third consumer banking report, surveying 26,000 people across the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and Germany. Among other things, the report zeroed in on branches.

As seen by this report, people are still turning to their branches for help every once in a while – and maybe even more so than last year. In 2021, 79% of respondents said they had gone to a branch at least once during the year, compared to 85% this year.

In fact, many consumers seem to regard branches as an important factor in evaluating their primary financial institution. For example, almost half the respondents said they would pay extra for in-branch financial guidance and advice. Meanwhile, 32% said they see branches near their home as an important feature for their bank to have. That stat turns into 38% among US respondents, by the way… 

Nothing seems to beat that face-to-face time, ey?

So why are so many people turning to branches, still? Well, it's not the branches themselves, but rather the humans inside. And if that sounds cheesy, have a look at what the report found were the main reasons for visiting branches:

  • 35% said face-to-face time
  • 26% said it’s easier in-person 
  • 32% said to access the services that can’t be accessed online  

The dawn of branch 2.0

Today, banks are still seen as the top source for financial advice. 38% of the respondents said they turn to their banks for help with their finances, compared to family members (32%), search engines (26%), financial advisors (21%), and friends (19%).

For banks, this may signal the potential to transform themselves into a hub for financial support, rather than a place to get mundane banking tasks done.

Main takeaway?

In the summer of 2020, we were seeing a whole lot of repetitive articles – from how to set up your work-from-home station to the acceleration of online banking. Consequently, there were quite a few ‘death of the branch’ songs being sung.

But just like work from home did not get rid of work from office, digital banking seems unlikely to snuff the importance of the branch – maybe just alter its role instead.

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