What is the future for retail banking?

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These days, people are well versed in accessing and managing their money online. Whether it’s on a computer or through their smartphone, this technology is becoming more sophisticated every year. With real-time account monitoring and the ability to set up transactions without going into a high street branch, the market is shifting and players in the retail banking sector are having to catch up.

This year, we’ve experienced the contactless card become a standard method of payment in the UK when out and about. We’ve seen immediate money-sharing apps make splitting days out with your friends more manageable. Cheques are practically redundant and paying bills can be done at the touch of a button.

It’s clear that for a certain demographic, online access to their banking provides a more convenient experience. So does this make retail banking obsolete? Or is there always going to be the need for that human touch for those who aren’t quite as technologically savvy?

In the United Arab Emirates, a recent survey revealed that a huge proportion of customers would swap their current bank if another were more technologically savvy. The fact that over half of respondents (60 per cent) said they’d happily opt for a digital-only bank is stark.

So where does this leave retail banking on our high streets?

In years gone by, bank branches would have been in abundance in most major cities around the world. More recently, their numbers are falling, between 1988 and 2012 our high streets saw the closure of over 10,000 retail banks.

With this decline in branches, retail banks and building societies, should be mindful of this market insight and adapt accordingly. They should look to improve the personal customer experience for everyone who walks through the doors.

To ensure the customer visit is enjoyable, convenient and hassle free, retail banks should look at certain areas within their branch to improve the customer journey. They should tackle frustration caused by long queues with an effective queue management system. Provide sufficient wayfinding information and ensure staff are well equipped in customer service.

Whatever solutions retail banking outlets put in place, it’s paramount they cater for those who still seek an in-store experience, rather that one limited to a handheld screen. Whether retail banking will diminish any further remains to be seen – but it’s doubtful, given human nature, that it will disappear completely.

Read about how we improved the customer journey at Banco Africano de Investimentos.

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