Have you been to a restaurant lately? The next time you go out to eat, look around and take note of how many diners are head down looking at their smartphones. It may or may not surprise you to see the sheer number of people ignoring each other and instead engaging with technology. The smarter our phones get, the less we seem to participate in face-to-face conversations. The same can be said when it comes to banking. Online and mobile banking have minimized the need for consumers to have face-to-face interaction in a physical bank branch.

Notice we said minimized, not eliminated.

In 2019, the number of people using digital banking services in the United States is estimated to surpass 161 million – a 22 percent increase from 2014. But despite that growth, research shows that more than half of Americans (even the digital-first Millennials) still prefer a physical branch and personal interaction when it comes to certain aspects of their money.

What’s driving branch visits?

“I need to open an account.”

Consulting firm Novantas surveyed more than 4,000 people and found 60 percent of respondents preferred going to a physical branch vs. using an app for opening an account. Other reasons for a personal visit included making a major deposit, taking out a loan, getting financial advice or help solving a problem.

“There’s a problem I can’t fix.”

Many consumers aren’t ready to go all digital when it comes to their money—especially if they have some kind of problem. In his blog, Lee Wetherington, Director of Strategic Insight for ProfitStars, a division of Jack Henry & Associates, Inc., says 75 percent of Americans still live paycheck to paycheck and that means any account problem is a big problem. If they encounter an unexpected account balance or a transaction gone wrong, Wetherington says the last thing a customer wants to deal with is a chatbot. Instead they want a real person to help them fix the issue – and fix it fast.

“I’m making a major financial decision.”

Have you heard of adulting? It’s a favorite catchphrase among Millennials who are performing behaviors that are considered responsible and grown up. But adulting does not come easy for this generation. Like many before them, Millennials want guidance and financial advice when it comes to major decisions like applying for a personal or business loan, improving their financial situation, getting or refinancing a mortgage, or investing their money. Great financial advice is also a great way to retain customers. According to the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Retail Banking Advice StudySM, customers who are highly satisfied with the guidance provided by their bank said they would definitely use that same institution for another product or service in the future.

Survival of the Fittest

While research indicates consumers still want and need a physical location, banks and branches have to evolve to stay relevant. National banks like Capital One are already reinventing the branch experience. Consumers can visit a Capital One Cafe and get assistance from “ambassadors” with online bill pay, credit card applications and account management, all while sipping coffee and enjoying free Wi-Fi. Consumers can even sign up for personalized financial education and money coaching sessions.

Be Proactive

Branch transformation doesn’t have to be a cafe. But it’s a good idea to start looking for things you can do to keep customers walking through your branch doors. For example, do you have space for conversation and consultation? The desire for more in-person advice means banks need to start shifting from a sales focus to one of consultancy. Are you prepared for this shift? Do you have the right people in place? The right training? Cain Ellsworth experts can help you go beyond the numbers and create goals and plans for the future.

Take heart, brick-and-mortar banks aren’t going the way of the dinosaur…just yet. But things are rapidly changing. Being proactive now will help you navigate the next chapter in banking.

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