In Santiago, Chile, I saw a Santander bank branch which doubled up as a co-working space and cafe.
I know that banks in the UK have been searching for ways to make their branch networks useful for their local community as more customers move to doing the majority of their banking online.
The things branches were needed for, or indeed useful for, just aren’t the same for a lot of customers – if they bank with a ‘modern’ bank. You can now deposit cheques using your mobile phone, fix problems with your account online, in an app or on the telephone and update your details e.g. change of address, in the same way.
Branches are useful when we need a human conversation, advice or support.
There will always be a cohort of customers that want or need to use a bank branch for the purposes it was traditionally used for and they will need to be supported. However, branches just aren’t getting the footfall they used to and will need to diversify their offering if they want to keep a presence on the high street.
For all the talk of digital only banks, a lot of customers, especially outside of major cities, just aren’t ready, yet. A lot of people aren’t ready to trust their full banking relationship to a digital only bank – they like seeing a bricks and mortar storefront which represents a safe place for their money.
Once traditional banks get rid of their high street presence then there will be little need for someone to choose a high street bank over your Monzo’s or Revolut’s. Therefore its critical that that banks that intend to continue having a presence on the high street do their research to understand the needs and goals of their customers so that they make best use of these spaces.