U.S. Bank has launched a couple of new video banking features that it says enhance both “do-it-yourself” and “do-it-together” capabilities for its customers.
Back in 2016, the bank first introduced the ability for customers to co-browse or share their screen with branch bankers during online and mobile banking. Now, it has added live video functionality to the co-browse feature: customers can see bankers in real time while screen-sharing with them, which enhances the interaction and gives it a more personal touch.
While video banking services are already being offered by a few banks such as Bank of America and Barclays, U.S. Bank claims its co-browse with video feature is a first among major banks in the country.
“Our market research indicates that out of the top 15 banks in the U.S., we’re the only bank offering screen sharing with live video of the banker at the local branch level,” said Richard Weeks, the head of conversational experiences and capabilities at U.S. Bank, who manages the way the bank uses digital tools to interact with customers.
Another recently launched feature is the ability to sign up for virtual appointments, which allow customers to have face-to-face interaction with their local branch banker, no matter where they are physically.
“People are now very used to Zooming and other types of video chats with family and friends. With virtual appointments, we’re bringing that same familiarity to the banking world,” said Weeks. “It’s still early days for this type of technology, but we’re proud to be one of the early adopters.”
For obvious reasons, the demand for digital tools shot up during the pandemic, resulting in nearly 80 percent of the bank’s customer interactions becoming digital. “Out of necessity, we greatly ramped up our use of co-browse during the pandemic. The feature became a huge hit, and we recognized that it would live on long after the pandemic – in fact, it’s only gotten more popular recently,” Weeks added.
2020 saw more than half a million co-browse sessions with U.S. Bank customers, and that number is set to quadruple in 2021, with an average of around 200,000 sessions per month. Customers also booked over 1 million virtual appointments in 2020, which are on track to double this year.
Despite the massive increase in digital engagement with customers, Weeks believes that physical branches will continue to hold their place in banking, especially in situations where customers seek more personalized services.
“I certainly think our customers have now recognized the power and convenience of our digital tools, and they may not go back to the branch to complete some of the more basic transactions,” he said. “However, I still think that for the major decisions a customer makes in their life – like buying a home or finding the best retirement plan – there’s still going to be a role for in-person visits.”
An unforeseen effect of the move to digital channels has been a reduction in bank loyalty. Customers now prefer to bank with institutions that provide modern solutions, rather than staying with a bank simply because they’ve been together a long time.
“As banks look at ways to restore customer loyalty, live video functionality is a great place to start,” said Kevin Olsen, SVP of payment solutions at VSoft. “We’ve seen things like virtual appointments take off in other industries such as healthcare, and I think we’re likely to see the same wave with video banking.”
Even while financial institutions cut down on physical space as they prepare for a post-pandemic world, the need for face-to-face interaction between bankers and customers will persist. “The banking industry was built on personal relationships”, said Olsen. “As financial institutions continue to execute digital transformation projects, it’s important that the industry keeps human connection at its core.”
Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, believes that video banking and virtual appointments will soon become an industry-wide trend. “Live video will quickly become table stakes in banking, simply because it’s something that customers will come to expect from banks,” he said. “With limited hours and locations, going physically to a branch is often not convenient or feasible. The ability to bank when and how you want – without sacrificing the human interaction – is where the industry is headed.”
McBride adds that while bank branches aren’t disappearing any time soon, they will need to be optimized and very strategically located. “Routine transactions have increasingly migrated to digital channels, and we’re already seeing the more consultative aspects of banking becoming available digitally,” he said.
“Banks with branch networks will continue to face competition from digital banks, neobanks, and other branchless fintechs, so optimizing the use of branches for the right purposes will be critical in the years ahead.”