Long live the bank branch?

This article was written by Tony Zerucha for Bankless Times.

Reports of the bank branch’s death are greatly exaggerated, Diebold Nixdorf’s director of business development, design and new technology incubation Dave Kuchenski said.

But that also doesn’t mean it will look like your grandmother’s corner branch either.

Part of Mr. Kuchenski’s job is to envision the future and help his clients adapt so they thrive in it. The process involves plenty of brainstorming. A few years ago Diebold Nixdorf was developing responsive banking concepts and a group began to discuss unmanned bank branches.

“We tried to think out of the box,” Mr. Kuchenski recalled. “Ten years from now what does the branch look and feel like?”

The customer experience would clearly be key. If they find the banking experience you provide a valuable one, they’ll adopt it.

There will also be several smaller interactions making up each customer’s complete experience, so it is important to consider the omnichannel experience (which no one truly delivers on), Mr. Kuchenski said. I may ask Alexa about mortgage rates while making breakfast, compare options on my phone while riding the subway and then visit a branch to seal the deal. It takes work to make sure the information, focus and presentation are consistent and that job is ongoing.

“The mistake companies make is they focus on the technology first,” Mr. Kuchenski explained. “Where you have to get to is sensing what customers’ needs are and how you carry that across all channels. The challenge becomes how to integrate the experience across all channels so banks can adequately serve their customers.”

While the future is still not clear, banks will eventually take on a different look and feel from those we have today, Mr. Kuchenski said. Unmanned options like branded microsites in retail parking lots could become popular.

“Whatever the experience banks are wanting to deliver to their customers, that should be the driver, so the engagements the banks do get with someone face-to-face are more profitable,” Mr. Kuchenski said.

Even though branch closures across North America are commonplace, banks should remember the strong draw of the local neighborhood brand, Mr. Kuchenski cautioned. People new to an area often choose a branch they see on their normal routes – it brings security.

Banks need to transform into something different because they now have competitors their predecessors never had to envision. Amazon is developing prime checking accounts and partnering with banks. That will accelerate the focus on a truly digital experience.

And once all banks master the digital experience (and they will because those who don’t won’t be around), the differentiator becomes physical, Mr. Kuchenski said. That means determining who comes into the branch and why and then providing an optimal experience for each of them when they do visit.

The banking experience begins with user authentication and if you go to an industry show like Money20/20 you will see many versions of what the future looks like for it. Some companies pitch a single authentication solution and others envision multi-factor scenarios. The technology will undoubtedly be different and those solutions that draw people will be those where customers clearly see value and can easily utilize it.

Again, look to the digital giants who are great at providing a strong mobile customer experience, Mr. Kuchenski said. Think Amazon’s mobile experience and Apple or Samsung’s registration process. Begin with using biometrics already present in your system, for introducing new ones can interrupt the flow.

“They key is to make it more secure for customers to use biometrics in the branch or at the ATM,” Mr. Kuchenski said. “It can’t be technology for technology’s sake. The issue becomes how to continue to get people to adopt it – that’s where the value comes in.”

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