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Does finance need a physical presence?

by uma
Editorial & Advertiser disclosure

Rohit Bhosale, Client Partner, Persistent Systems

Bank branches are closing across the UK as younger and more digitally minded generations become adult bankers,paving the way for fintech tosignificantly impact the way banking is done. Consequently, the recently published Financial Services and Markets Bill has introduced proposals to protect access to cash infrastructure over the long term – as its usage declines globally. 

Whether banks maintain physical branches in any capacity dependshugely on their client base. Many challenger banks are successful without brick-and-mortar outlets, as people adapt to going cashless. That said, for some institutions in-person serviceswill still hold significant importance. This is especially the case for complex transactions that require specialist advice, or in case of some customers who are reluctant to move away from human interaction.

Here’s where providers stand to benefit by introducing branch services optimised by technologiesdelivering exceptional, inviting, and frictionless customer experiences, all driven by innovation and personal interaction.

The personal touch still matters

Brick-and-mortar branches are still relevant within today’s financial environment, withaBank Administration Institute studyfinding that convenient bank branches are still amajor priority for Millennials, alongside their providers’ digital services.While most transactions are now performed online or through mobile banking, branch servicesare remaining relevant by optimising their core function as a provider of consultation.

For example, service providers like Monument Bank find the omni-channel experience very valuable among high-net-worth clients.

Consequently, Monument’s digital strategy goes hand in hand with carefully selected in-app live audio, video chat components, where personal bankers can initiate anddevelopthis advisory relationship with account holders.

Personalising finance with data

Financial providers need to exhibit a forward-thinking attitude when developing modern branch experiences, which means they can’t focus on day-to-day transactions in the same way as in the past.

Typical operations like depositing checks, making transfers, and opening new accounts are all easily performed via digital platforms. That means banks will need to improve the branch experience by integrating the right technologies to improve personal interactions.

Data has become a key currency when addressing customer needs, with database solutions and analytics being employed to create a360-degree view around the account holders, and personalise advice given during meetings.Staffare alsogaining accesstoCRM (Customer Relationship Management) software featuring advanced dashboards detailing how their services affect the overall customer experience. 

Analysis of this data is playing a crucial role in determining what aspects of the business strategy are proving effective, while paving the way for improved decision making.An extension of this would be leveraging VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality), where trading desks using multiple screens can be replaced by one VR-lens enabling staff to look at even more data in real-time.

Innovating personal interactions

Increasingly, banks are turning towards digital signage and AV (audio visual) solutions too, whether they’re interactive digital walls or video displays greeting customers as they walk in-branch.These technologies are playing a significant role in improving branch services globally, with customers learning about new offerings and accessing expert guidance via financial advisors through video conferencing rooms.

Audio hardware include sound systems enhancing physicalspaces through music, and advanced sound masking technology to preserving customer privacy during meetings.

New technologies are also improving more routine operations, with ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines)assisting account holders in completing simple transactions that used to require staff assistance, whether it’s making withdrawals or deposits, transferring funds, getting a new card, and more. 

These are available both in and out of branches, providing customers ongoing access to the institution’s core services. Many of these also connect customers to staff through video conferencing to handle specific queries.

Why solutions partners matter

Digital banking is here to stay. Digital transactions are on the rise.Alternative cryptocurrencies are being more widely accepted on a global level. There are still benefits to using cash, including reduced spending given the need to make physical payments, in addition to financial autonomy if digital services become unavailable due to technical difficulties.However, while traditional banks will retain their relevance as an outlet for cash, they’ll also need to re-evaluate their existing operations and use innovative technology to optimise services offered in branch.

While there’s a range of fintech offerings to aid in this, providers can only take full advantage by drawing on specialist technology expertise in order to navigate key IT decisions, facilitate third-party relationships, and ensure access to cutting-edge technologies to provide the best possible service. 

With fintech being so dynamic and fast-moving, and an increasing number of competitorsoffering fully digital services, traditional providers will need solutions partners who can combine technical knowledge with awareness of new trends within finance.This approach will afford physical branches the much-needed pace and edge to remain relevant.


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