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Swatek Joe 2013-11

Branches for Everyone

“We want to focus on the affluent.” If I collected cash every time I heard or read that sentiment, I’d be sitting on the porch of a cabin in a national park, retired, relaxed, and taking in a great view.

Since no one pays me on that basis, I’m here to share with you some of my thoughts about branch banking.

I came across an article that quoted a Chase Bank executive who made much the same comment as you see above. The executive was talking about the viability of branch offices. He made the point that branches are still feasible to Chase because these are places where the bank can personalize service for its affluent customers. A variation on the old “wine and dine” idea.

When I read the quote, I remembered some extensive research we did at ACTON Marketing in 2004. We studied how financial institutions could better serve minority customers.

The “special” office set up for the affluent customers the Chase executive referenced and the “special” office set up for minority marketing are much the same.

We found that minorities often come to the bank or credit union as a family unit. The best way to serve them is to offer a quiet office space where they can conduct their account openings in private, with personalized help from the office employee. We recommended that our clients set up family friendly office space with lots of chairs for family members. It should be an atmosphere where people can relax.

This doesn’t only apply to today’s Hispanic and Asian minorities. Immigrants from Europe and elsewhere fit the description.

And what about today’s young mother who comes to a branch to open a checking account or apply for a loan? She has her young children in tow. She would appreciate a quiet space where she doesn’t feel like everyone in the branch is staring at her and her impatient kids.

So here’s my point. Your  bank or credit union can cater to those affluent customers that everyone drools over. You can give them their special space in your branches so they can hide from the prying eyes of the bourgeois rabble lined up at the teller windows. But unless you’re serving them crumpets and caviar, there’s little difference serving the personal relationship needs of the affluent and any of your other customers.

Create an office atmosphere where any consumer feels comfortable. Offer everyone personal service. Have private corners where anyone can open an account or get a financial appraisal.

If you’re going to have full-service branches, make them full-service for all. You don’t need to do much different no matter what the financial affluence of your customers.

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In my personal opinion, many branches could be scaled back into “pocket branches,” much smaller with fewer employees. Something like a supermarket branch, but with a drive-up window. Practical and a cost-saving measure.

Read more on the topic of branches in these blog posts…

A Bleak Future for Branch Banking

The End of Consumer Banking as We Know It

No Longer a Need for Bank Branches

What’s the Fate of Branch Offices?

…and in these newsletters…

The Changing Role of the Retail Branch

The Changing Face of Consumer Banking

Tagsaccount openingaffluent customerbankbank branchbankingblog postbranch bankingbranch officechecking accountconsumer bankingcredit uniondrive-up windowfinancial appraisalfinancial institutionfull-service branchminority customerminority marketingNewsletterpersonal servicepocket branchretail branchsupermarket branchteller window

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