Will Bank Branches Disappear in the U.S.?

Matt Williamson
Publication Date
28 August 2020

Will Bank Branches Disappear in the U.S.?

3 Bank branches close every day

You may be thinking, “well, of course, we are in the middle of a pandemic and a financial crisis.” However, this statistic from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, reports that U.S. bank branches have been closing at the rate of more than three a day for the last ten years.

In addition, a pre-pandemic survey showed that 70% of consumers used a mobile device to manage their bank account at least once in the previous month, and 43% did so more than three times.

So what do these statistics really indicate? They bring these questions to the forefront:

  • Have consumers been ready for digital banking all along – not simply out of necessity due to the pandemic? 
  • Is this a permanent shift or will post-COVID banking go back to what it was before the pandemic? 
  • Will digital banking end in-person, human to human interaction at branches altogether?

Let’s discuss.

COVID-19 has accelerated what was already happening

Digital banking was on the rise before the coronavirus hit. Banks were rolling out or enhancing their digital channels to meet the needs of primarily younger generations who were the main audience for this kind of banking, and preparing for an eventual widespread embrace from other demographics.

Pre-pandemic we saw stats like this: 47% of millennials use mobile banking, over twice the number of Baby Boomers who bank via their mobile device. This showed the disparity between generations when it came to digital banking – but with COVID-19, this research has become obsolete. Why? Because COVID-19 fast-tracked digital banking entirely, making it something that everyone – from Gen Z to Baby Boomers – need in order to stay safe.

This begs the question… will digital banking stick?

So of course the big question is: ok, sure, digital banking is a necessity right now, but will it stick around after the pandemic? While we don’t have a crystal ball and we can’t answer this question for every single bank, we can look at the research and make a well-educated assessment. 

For example, one study showed a reported 200% increase in new mobile banking users this year (2020). In another survey, less than half of consumers said they will return to branch banking post-pandemic, with more than 60% stating they will continue to digitally bank. While safety and access have been driving forces during the pandemic, now that consumers have experienced the convenience of digital banking and become comfortable with the convenience and speed of it, many won’t want to go back to their old ways. 

Banks have to realistically look at their users’ behaviors, the types of services they offer, and what kind of bank they want to be 5, 10, 15 years down the line. Some things that banking leaders should consider include:

Has COVID-19 marked the end of in-branch banking altogether?

While the pandemic has certainly expedited digital trends we’ve been following across industries, purely digital solutions won’t be an answer for every customer. Consider your customers who, for one reason or another, don’t have access to a personal computer or smartphone. There are those who simply aren’t capable of conducting their banking digitally and it’s important to make sure that you have solutions for these important customers. 

Think about your call centers. For the last decade, call centers have continuously tried to manage customer requirements within the IVR to eliminate the need to speak with a person to resolve their query. Are they optimized for the current increase in traffic due to COVID-19? Have you considered a curbside solution? Are there ways you can conduct banking tasks carside to ensure safe, in-person needs are met? The point is, there are ways that you can get creative, such as using your drive thru or curbside to help customers schedule time to sign documents, pick up debit/credit cards, etc. Customer centricity must be at the heart of any future innovation if you are to remain competitive within your market.

While there will still be some instances where in-person banking is preferred or necessary, there are ways that digital can help enhance those experiences to make them efficient and safe. Read more about this in our blog, The Future is Phygital: Physical and Digital.

What steps do you need to take to make sure you aren’t leaving your customers stranded? 

Serving the customer in this new era

One thing is for certain: everyone is learning as they go. As the pandemic continues, digital tools will continue to be the standard in the age of social distancing. Forward-thinking banks are using this time to figure out who they are now, who they want to be in the future, and how they can take steps today to create a better customer experience, which will include digital options. Banks have to unshackle themselves from legacy behaviors and mindsets to become more agile and ensure they serve their customers needs – today and tomorrow.

Mobiquity can help 

Whether you’re looking to enhance your current digital banking experience or ready to create a digital strategy from scratch – Mobiquity can help. Our approach starts with your end goal and works backwards until we’ve successfully created a program you’re proud to present to the world. We take security and a methodical banking approach very seriously and will work with you every step of the way, through every piece of feedback, review, and approval. 

Plus, we work with some of the best partners in banking to ensure your program is successful. Check out our link with Backbase, Mambu, Jumio, and AWS.

Ready to explore your digital banking strategy? Let’s talk.

Matt Williamson

As an experienced turnaround manager and entrepreneur, Matt Williamson is Vice President of Global Financial Services, Mobiquity. Matt joined Mobiquity during COVID-19 to support the company’s growth trajectory and is a specialist in M&A, technology, product integration, strategy, and delivery. Matt’s career demonstrates his international expertise and ability to rise to a diverse array of challenges. Beginning his career as a fraud investigator at Thomas Cook and Travelex, Matt went on to run Travelex’s Global Business Payments Tech for EMEA and won a Sibos innovation of the year for the Geo Payments Network while occupying the role of UK Product Head. Following this, Matt was appointed by Citi Bank as its Senior Vice President of Technology for Treasury Trade Services and EMEA Head of Commercial Prepaid Card Technology. Matt has also been instrumental in the merger of Misys into Finastra, leading a successful hyper-growth strategy as the Global Head of Payments and Cash. In addition, Matt has worked with Fintech start-ups such as CoBa as Global Head of Fintech, and an international payment scale-up, FORM3, as its Director of Customer Success within its Enterprise and Partnership division to build its brand on a global basis. Matt is a thought leader on financial inclusion, the bank of the future, cashless societies, the digital banking experience, sustainability, fraud and security of payments.

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