Branch Automation: First Things First
So here we are, deep into ongoing discussions and potential initiatives around getting to the right future branch strategy and footprint. Some say, “no branches”, while others think micro-branches, pop-ups, or a scalable branch approach could all be part of the answer. While branch transformation remains ‘front and center’ in today’s discussions, early experimentation has produced very mixed outcomes and false starts, including technology decisions without a clear business strategy. These efforts have often been both expensive and disruptive.
Some are saying to take it slow… “Let the market evolve until things become clear related to investing in branch technologies.” This messaging is both right and wrong. First, it is being put-forth in some cases because the supplier offering that advice does not have, or plan to have, evolved technologies in its solution set. This fits the ‘wrong message’ profile, certainly, since many branch tech suppliers do offer these advanced technologies intended to offer AI services, automate many/most branch transactions, or provide branch access to banks’ SMEs via remote video.
On the other hand, the messaging is correct. This is simply because, just like bank clients or CU memberships are each diverse groups with a wide range of needs, financial institutions [FIs] are similarly diverse with a wide range of current needs as well as future needs related to their strategic mission. Some are ready to take the lead with branch technology, and others are simply not!
With this in mind, let’s look at taking first things first! If there ever has been a ‘sure bet’ when it comes to branch technology, it is the added value of teller cash recycling technology. Let’s review the overall value proposition.
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Branch Transformation Miscues or...What Could Possibly Go Wrong
Part 1: Staffing
Much has been written, discussed and spent on the topic of Branch Transformation over the past few years. Yet, with all the exploration, experimentation, and evaluation, no single formula for success has emerged. Financial institutions continue to search for answers appropriate to their individual organizations. Tech suppliers continue to say they can “show you the way”, and industry thought leaders state that Universal Bankers, which was thought to be an essential staffing strategy in support of Branch Transformation, may not be universally needed. We also now learn that the “Branch of the Future [might] Not [be] All That Different Than [the] Branch of Today.” In the midst of all this, billions of dollars are being been spent globally according to IDC, yet the results continue to be mixed.
So what has all of this meant in terms of measurable advancements? In a recent Wall Street Journal Article, Bob Meara of Celent was quoted as follows, “Most banks don’t have a clear vision of where to take the branch.” This quote was among various manifestations of the branch transformation concept by spokespeople for most of the nation’s largest, most prominent banks, each deeply immersed in their own version of branch transformation. Perhaps the first line of the article says it all, “Banks just can’t figure out what to do with their branches.”
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Branch Transformation and Alphabet Soup
Volumes have now been written about branch transformation and many opinions expressed about what the banking organization of the future will look like. Technology suppliers have joined industry thought leaders in providing a perplexing variety of views, opinions and recommendations about how financial institutions should respond. Unfortunately, however, the industry has a continuing track record of making things difficult to process and interpret, all due to the obsessive over use of acronyms. That’s right! All those industry experts rely way too much on the industry’s alphabet soup!
Now, to be perfectly clear...
It used to be simple to automate the branch. A few PCs connected to the network, one or more ATMs in the vestibule or drive-thru, and either TCDs or TCRs to automate and secure the cash was all the hardware technology needed in the well-equipped branch.
This is where things get more complicated. Banks are now implementing CRM systems to better understand and serve their customers while working with their technology suppliers to integrate their systems using APIs. Some are even implementing ITMs, ILTs, PTMs, or AST machines to replace or augment the traditional teller role in transaction processing. They are even changing the way the branch is staffed, now with UBs who can handle a wider array of banking services as compared to the role of the teller. The ABA now offers a certification curriculum for this position. This staffing strategy is in hopes of improving the in-branch CX, and making customers raving fans according to the NPS system. Some institutions have even started to measure employee satisfaction using GPTW surveys.
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