Banks are shrinking
Like many businesses trying to prosper in today’s marketplace, banks are looking at ways to cut their costs.
With the increase in internet and telephone banking, many of us are choosing to conduct our financial banking affairs in this way. Whether it be the ease of transferring money to a friend via ‘PingIt’, or taking out a loan or insurance, many of us now turning to the computer or telephone rather than visiting the branch.
I recently visited my local branch to pay in a cheque. The banking hall, which once had up to 6 cashiers behind the glass and another 3 or 4 personal bankers at their desks, looked very different. There was now a single cashier position which was served as a foreign currency and business banking counter and 2 state of the art teller machines. One member of staff was there with an iPad to offer assistance to those who needed it.
I have to say that from a technological viewpoint that the machines were awesome. The were capable of carrying out all of the functions that a cashier would including paying in cheques, cash withdrawals, paying a credit card bill etc. I was quite expected them to make me a coffee, but that was outside their remit.
What was sadly missing was the human contact. The chance to speak to the cashier, exchange pleasantries, ask a questions and generally interact. I didn’t leave feeling like a valued customer of the bank, just that I had been there to do the task in hand.
It was therefore very interesting today to read in the Daily Mail and article suggesting that branches could soon be ‘no bigger than a garden shed’.
The article feature Lloyds and suggested that they plan to adopt a more ‘express’ bank, with one such branch already open in London measuring around 13ft wide by 13ft deep. They will still have 2 staff on duty to assist customers to use the computers, but this is a massive reduction compared to the normal number of staff that would be employed by a branch.
These branches are all ‘self service’ with machines being made available to carry out most of the daily banking tasks.
While some, like me, think that this is a negative step, the justification that the banks are using is that by doing this they will be able to keep more branches open. The alternative would be to close a number of branches thereby forcing people to travel further to carry out their banking. While such an approach of closing branches may not sound so bad in a major city like London, it is already causing uproar in rural areas where poor public transport could mean that when a village branch closes that many are denied convenient banking facilities.
Some banks have already overcome this accessibility issue by providing mobile banks. Not to be confused by a mobile banking application, these are mobile branches that can be driven to towns and villages and where customers can go and transact their banking business. While this adds to the convenience for those living there, it does only provide access for a few hours per week.
Of course, even with these express style branches, the banks will still retain a large number of their main branches. These will mainly provide the bank end services and also access to personal bankers for processes that require longer ‘face to face’ meetings.
While I think that it is our change in habits and lifestyle that has led to these changes, and I do understand why the banks are doing this, I do feel saddened that future generations will not know the hustle and bustle of a banking hall on a Saturday morning.
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Author: Internal Customer Services Agent