With a decline in branch traffic the future of banking is on everyone’s mind. A recent piece for Bank Investment Consultant by American Banker reporters Chris Cumming and Jackie Stewart highlights three strategies that banks are pursuing. Cuts, Caution, or Acquisition, which do you think is best?
At the Keefe, Bruyette & Woods conference in Boston, Webster Financial, Independent Bank and People’s United Financial were interviewed about the changing role of the brick-and-mortar bank.
Webster cut 4% of its branch network last year and has plans to reduce by a further 20%. This comes as a response to changing consumer preferences as more banking is done online.
However, the bank’s still interested in opening offices in areas with high demand. While they see the branch as playing a reduced role in day-to-day business, they are open to expansion in strategic areas.
Independent is taking caution when it comes to the branch. The company recently opened its first Boston office, but has also closed a handful of branches. Their plan for now is to analyze consumer data in order to improve their offerings and earnings, maximizing what they’ve got without cuts or acquisitions.
People’s has added 70 net branches since 2010. They’ve found success by creating better representation for their brand in supermarkets and stores. This expansion has helped to raise their profile.
However, a whopping 56 of these branches came through acquisition and were not wholly new locations. So while People’s is doing well by shoring up in physical locations, the long term prospects could be a concern if foot traffic continues to dwindle.
For whichever strategy you think is best, the real $64,000 question here is: How do you grow with less branch traffic and online interactions that are mostly transactional?
One tactic we’re a fan of (and which banks like Dedham Savings and East Cambridge are pursuing) is content marketing. These banks provide answers to customers’ questions through articles and guides that start conversations and get people into the branch when they’re ready to buy. They are enhancing their online and mobile presence by becoming resources for their customers while refiguring the branch experience. They’re getting more out of their websites and generating leads.
We’ll be hosting a workshop on March 18th where we’ll go in depth about how to generate leads in an increasingly online world. Drop by and see how content can be used to raise your profile and create leads that aren’t happening in the branch any more.