Recently The Economist published an article on Metro Bank and its strategic focus on bank branches. We hear much about the death of the branch but here is a bank building its entire strategy around the branch. And these branches (or ‘stores’ in Metro speak) are grand affairs, seemingly designed in the style of yesterday’s branches. Metro clearly believes there is customer demand for the traditional banking model and that digital delivery is not the future of retail banking.
Metro is so branch centric that you cannot open an account online, and their online banking and mobile apps are quite basic. Unless you live or work close to a Metro branch you can’t take advantage of their products, which is a missed opportunity to grow their customer base.
Local bank branches also feature heavily in the marketing from the relaunched TSB and my conversations with the soon to launch RBS spin-off Williams & Glyn indicate they will also be putting the branch at the centre of their strategy.
I’ve long been an exponent of a digital future for retail banking – my banking utopia. However apart from the yet to launch Atom, none of the new challenger banks is developing a focus on digital engagement.
There is a generation starting to use banks who cannot understand why they need to visit a physical location to engage with their bank when that engagement could take place via an app. Banks, old and new, risk missing out on this generation if they don’t adapt and change.
So is the future of retail banking destined to be a branch based dystopia? Or will the banks step up and deliver my digital utopia?
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Curious they’re encouraging customers who’ve already opted out of the world or branches to go to branches. An example of the confused approach to digital engagement that the banks still display.
The once-champion of the branchless bank, First Direct, recently sent me a letter (?!) about a change to their mobile app. I thought maybe they were adding a new innovative feature for mobile banking. Unfortunately no, it is a GPS branch locator.
If someone with such a history of ground breaking innovation as First Direct is more concerned with how I might find my nearest branch than helping me make secure mobile payments (still no word of PAYM on their website) then who is it that is going to challenge your dystopian vision?