The Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief executive has ruled out any further branch closures for now, arguing that the group’s 800 -strong UK network is “about the privilege width and figure to meet the needs of our customers”. But just what is the right shape for a fork as we move deeper into the digital era?
In a bank division in Oregon, a small group of parties are lying on orange mattings, with legs extended in the air and hands clenched behind their heads.
It is a yoga class, one of a number of innovations introduced by Umpqua Bank to lure the public into their “stores” on the high-pitched street.
Its “store-as-community-hub” hypothesi, was initiated in the mid-1 990 s, made gathering places for members of the public to enjoy a free cup of tea or coffee, channel-surf the internet, or theatre phenomena such as movie nights.
“At the time, chapters are typically intimidating – marble floors and towers, roped threads, impersonal experiences for parties, ” says Eve Callahan, an executive vice president at Umpqua.
“The goal then and now was to remove barriers for our customers to talk about their investments, to move beyond the transactional side of banking to those minutes where life and money meet.”
The bank has also been increasingly marrying its store thought with digital technology, such as interactive “walls” offering details on new products and services.
It also recently launched a new “human digital banking” app that allows people to choose their own personal banker “devoted to their financial needs”.
British banks have been slower to innovate as they struggle to keep pace with the digital era.
Recent research found that roughly 3,400 chapters – more than a third of the UK national network – closed between January 2015 and December 2019 as online and mobile bank surged in popularity.
That transformation in purchaser practice has forced banks to take a closer look at their retail outlets – at least those that are left.
Recent developings therefore seems that at least some are following an Umpqua-like model in more populated areas.
Virgin Money recently launched a brand-new “store” concept in various British metropolis which it claims “re-imagines what a bank division should be”.
Several branches are now offering “a place for entrepreneurs to co-work and create”, as well as a venue for phenomena and concerts.
Other banks are also starting to act more like community centres, although there’s a suggestion that they haven’t settled on what they guess patrons want.
In December, a brand-new flagship Bank of Scotland branch opened in Glasgow’s Argyle Street, designed to “act as a testing ground for the future of banking in Scotland”.
Among other things, it offers an in-branch cafe and a free affairs programme on subjects such as home buying, interior design, guiding a small business and improving digital abilities.
Bank of Scotland managing director Tara Foley says it is “a different kind of bank branch”.
“This will render the services that we are all familiar with customers require in a modern and flexible environment, blending the most recent in interactive digital technology with the relied personal the services provided by our expert colleagues, ” she says.
Some experts believe it is in the banks’ own interests to keep sprigs open.
In 2018, US management consultants McKinsey and Company argued that branches remained “an essential part of banks’ business and customer-advisory functions”, adding that bricks-and-mortar locatings were “still one of “the worlds leading” sales channels”.
Despite the growth of digital business, it seems there is still a strong appetite among the public for the personal touch in banking.
Recent research by purchaser radical Which? intimated 8.4 million UK adults( 17%) still preferred to bank at a chapter, while seven in ten consumers exploited a mix of digital and in-person banking.
TSB chief exec Debbie Crosbie told BBC Scotland recently that her bank was still “very committed” to a sprig network, despite plans to close 82 limbs in 2020.
“People are doing different things in sprigs now – they want advice, they miss assistant, ” she said.
RBS, too, has been rethinking its fork model.
The bank says: “We’re investing in our forks to deliver them up to date with the style patrons bank, exploiting state-of-the art technology, combined with expertise from our staff and a greater focus on community engagement.”
‘Teachers and helpers’
Prof Russel Griggs, who rendered an independent review of UK bank endings in 2016, is considered that divisions will continue to exist – and evolve.
He says: “I remember bank forks will endure as residences we go to for advice and learning. That will be a change from where they are today, although numerous are moving in that direction already.
“That will mean that branch staff will have to have different sciences from those they have today as they will be teachers and aides rather than processors of transactions.”
Eve Callahan, from Umpqua Bank in Oregon, appears self-confident that limbs do have a future.
“They won’t go away absolutely, ” she says.
“There will certainly be fewer of them and they will most likely operate more as centres of financial consultation.
“But they will remain an important part of the overall mixture of touch details in the customer journey.”