There continues to be a healthy debate about the future of bank branches. Usually the focus is on whether bank customers of the future will go to physical branches for help. The answer to that depends not only on consumer preferences (clearly a large segment desires a branch option) but also the cost to deliver on those preferences.
The bigger question is, to what extent do consumers want to interact with humans to optimize their financial experiences? And if human interaction is still needed/desired/preferred, how can it be most effectively delivered accounting for cost, effectiveness, customer satisfaction, revenue generation, and so on.
We’ve looked at technology solutions (chat, call backs, IVR, etc) over the years, but one area we haven’t explored is the idea of delivering the human help at the customer’s location instead of at the bank’s. I got to thinking about it after hearing an interview with Ron Johnson at the Collision conference. Johnson, mastermind of Apple’s retail stores, and former JCPenney CEO, just launched Enjoy, which adds a human component to the buying process for higher-end electronics.
Like Best Buy’s Geek Squad, when you buy something online at Enjoy, one of its employees actually delivers and sets up your new equipment (currently San Francisco and NYC only) at no extra cost (over retail prices). When pressed on how they could make money doing this, Johnson said they were taking all the overhead expense of a bricks-and-mortar location and instead investing it into talented employees who can deliver a better experience at the customer’s location (or at a nearby coffee shop).
Banks can do the same thing. If someone wants to open an account and doesn’t want to (or can’t) do it online, the bank can dispatch someone to take care of it at a location chosen by the customer. This is already the typical model for many financial professionals (mortgage brokers, insurance brokers, business bankers, stock brokers, financial planners, and so on). The key to making it work is to simultaneously downsize physical brand costs, otherwise the mobile bankers are just an added expense.
You can see this idea playing out in Poland, where small-business-focused Idea Bank has deployed four high-tech electric BMW i3 cars to collect deposits from small business customers via an ATM built into the side (see demo video below). Naturally, visits from the roving depositories are scheduled via smartphone app, à la Uber. Security-wise, I’m not sure this is the best way to handle cash, but I do like the idea of mobilized bankers.
Branch or no branch, many customers still need the occasional hand-holding. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with a smartphone-wielding customer base.
– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. You can read the original article here. Image: Shutterstock