People May Still Want to Go to Bank Branches

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Many people have no need to go to bank branches at all. Almost every routine banking relationship can be done online. But a new survey shows that visits to branches may still be an essential part of what consumers want from their banking experience.

A survey of credit union members titled “2017 State of Credit Unions” showed that many members count on bank visits to manage their financial lives. Credit unions are not banks, but they provide mostly similar functions. They are owned and controlled by their members and provide financial services to those members. They are, in many ways, bank substitutes, since they provide all major retail bank services.

The study showed that:

It’s no longer necessary to visit a branch for many transactions, yet in-person banking at credit unions isn’t going away. Instead, it’s becoming more important and more specialized—and, as a result, the member service experience a branch provides is increasingly vital to a credit union’s success. In fact, during the next 10 years, banking will become much more human again—emphasizing personal relationships and local connectedness, for which credit unions are deservedly well known.

The data indicate that the trend of banks closing hundreds of branches may cripple the retail bank experience, and banks that keep human-based locations open could have an edge over competitors in the future.

In some ways, relationships with banks have become more complex, more than at least some banks want them to be. The retail bank business has become something of a one-stop shop, providing checking and savings accounts, loans, mortgages, credit cards, investing services, credit scores and loyalty services that reward customers for their patronage.

As banks become a larger part of people lives, branches may be a key to holding clients.