I saw a Santander bank branch in Santiago, Chile that 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 do most of their banking online.
The things branches were needed for or useful for aren’t the same for many customers – if they bank with a ‘modern’ bank. So, for example, 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 human conversation, advice or support.
There will always be a cohort of customers who want or need to use a bank branch for the purposes it was traditionally used for and 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, many customers, especially outside of major cities, aren’t ready yet. Moreover, many people aren’t prepared to trust their entire banking relationship to a digital-only bank – they like seeing bricks and mortar storefronts representing a safe place for their money.
Once traditional banks remove their high street presence, there will be little need for someone to choose a high street bank over your Monzo’s or Revolut’s. Therefore, banks that intend to continue having a presence on the high street must do their research to understand the needs and goals of their customers so that they make the best use of these spaces.