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In-Person Banking is Going the Way of the Newspaper. Don't Get Swept Away.

Apr 24, 2019 1:14:55 PM

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Over the last decade, the refrain that "physical press is dead" has been sung over and over to the point of cliche. Still, the statistics bear out. As more and more individuals turn to their phones to get the news--whether from journalism apps, websites, or just social media--it's becoming harder and harder for media corporations to justify the rising costs and dwindling returns of print publications.

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The previous chart is extremely telling. Advertising has become far more profitable for major newspapers than the purchase of their print editions, and previously renowned magazines and periodicals have switched to a digital only model, while others have disappeared completely.

This trend is not exclusive to print press, however. As users are able to do more and more on their laptops and phones, they're shying away from the more traditional ways in which they've interacted with brands and industries as a whole. If the maxim about the fate of print journalism is any indication, businesses in every sector will have to adapt or die out.

Banking is No Exception

In a 2018 report by Raddon, surveyors found some fascinating insights into the ways in which customers are changing their banking behaviors in the wake of online banking. Compiled into comprehensive charts by the Financial Brand, the implications are clear.

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As visualized in the above graphic, an increasing number of people--especially younger individuals--believe that online banking technology could ultimately eliminate the need for banks to open nearby branches. They believe that--in the wake of the increased functionality of banking apps and websites--the necessity of physically going to the bank could maybe disappear.

As you can see, there's a clear delineation among generations, with Boomers and Gen X being less certain that this eventuality might come to pass; still, even among Boomers, over 1/3 of those surveyed have enough confidence in online banking to submit, at least, a maybe.

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A subsequent graphic shows a clear decline in the number of both branch visits and overall branch-related transactions in the last 12 years. It's fair to say from these numbers that--even if branches never become completely obsolete--their popularity is declining.

Mobile Banking is Growing...And Will Continue to Grow

How will banks respond to this? Will they view branches as a drain on revenue--forcing them to invest on real estate and construction and staffing that is largely unnecessary in the wake of online banking? Will they decide that their money is better funneled into improving and optimizing mobile banking technologies, to ensure that your devices can be the one stop shop of your banking experience?

A graphic from Statista provides further insight into this trend, measuring the number of households with users doing online banking via smartphone from 2018 on, with predictions for 2020:

 

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As depicted in this graph, more and more users are opting complete banking transactions via phone.

Who can blame them? We've all had to stand in seemingly endless lines at the bank as the clock on our lunch break swiftly runs out. We've all had the frustrating realization that we left some essential document at home, and we'll have to leave the bank to retrieve it, maybe not actually accomplishing what we needed until the next day.

Online banking removes these hassles, and customers are aggressively responding to the convenience of it. In the same way that it's easier to check the news on your phone than run into the rain to grab a copy of the Washington Post from a news stand, it's far nicer to rest assured that you can complete transactions from your couch, rather than having to bundle up and get in your car, only to have to wait in line for 20 minutes.

Change is Coming. When Does it Arrive?

For some further context, lets look at one more graphic from the Financial Brand:

 

Banking-Consumer-Sentiment

As we can see from these numbers, over half of surveyed individuals prefer banking exclusively via self-service or with a combination of face-to-face and digital banking.

It's also, of course, important to note that 58% said they prefer traditional banks, and that 37% prefer to do all their banking face-to-face.

From this, banks might feel like they're receiving a host of mixed messages, but the key take away is the following: tides are turning. Certainly, Citizens is not going to decide to shut down every single one of its branches tomorrow, or even in the next three years, but--as that first Financial Brand graphic showed us--generational attitudes are indeed shifting around how folks like to bank, and the role of brick and mortar bank branches is demonstrably changing.

Cutting to the Chase (Bank)

It's unlikely that any bank is going to decide to go entirely digital any time soon, just as it's unlikely that you'll wake up tomorrow for find that The New York Times has vanished from shelves. Still, as attitudes and approaches towards banking evolve, and as digital banking becomes an increasingly preferred method for many households, it is essential that banks, both large and small, create a digital infrastructure, and invest in the digital solutions that will allow them to dynamically meet customer needs and priorities.

In the wake of these evolutions, banks must examine their customer relations methodologies, their technology assets, and prepare for what could be seismic shifts in the industry.

Successful organizations are those that anticipate, and observe the wants of their clientele, and then comprehensively react to them. The alternative is to find that customers just aren't biting or buying.

You don't want to be taken off stands.

 

Michael Darer
Written by Michael Darer

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