RESHAPING THE ROLE OF THE BRANCH (Mar 2016)

From Transactions to Sales

Approaches to Staffing

Branch Size and Functions

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 study, The Era of Self-Service Banking, found that tellers and other personnel are widely used during branch visits.  However, ATMs are also being used extensively at branches.  Are consumers ready to accept ATMs as a replacement for tellers at branches?

F241 Prop Graphic

Highlights of the Study

This study evaluates branch usage patterns, improvements and innovations, as well as the role of branches going forward.  It will assist providers in identifying strategies for positioning, redesigning and configuring branches.
National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

December 18, 2015 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
December 18, 2015 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
March 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • What is the position of the branch as a consumer contact point in terms of frequency of overall monthly visits? How does this vary between inside visits, drive-up visits, and other purposes?  How important are convenient branches as a provider selection factor?  What types of activities are performed at branches?  How important is the role of branches in initial account acquisition and further cross-selling?
  • Has consumer branch usage increased, decreased, or stayed the same in the past five and one year periods? How have other channels – such as ATMs, online banking, and mobile banking – impacted branch activity?
  • What are the reasons or motivations some consumers use branches instead of other available – and potentially more convenient – channels? In contrast, why do some consumers choose not to use branches?
  • How do consumers view automation and technology in branches – as a means for branch staff to provide better customer service or as an option for customers to perform self-service?  Do customers in general desire future improvements in branch technology?
  • What role do or can alternative facilities play in meeting consumers’ needs for branch contact?   How widespread is usage of in-store branches and online direct banks?   What is the potential for self-service kiosks?  Does video conference capability expand the appeal of kiosks?
  • How wide is overall satisfaction with branches among consumers? How important are specific aspects such as transaction speed and accuracy, number and convenience of locations, hours of operation, and staff competence and friendliness? What features, services, or staffing capabilities would consumers see as being improvements at their primary branch?
  • Which consumer identifiers – such as demographic variables, behavioral patterns, or attitudinal traits – are most useful in designing and implementing branch configuration strategies?

Research Issues

  • Branches will remain the heart of delivery systems for many financial institutions. However, it is inescapable that this facility needs to be reshaped for the future.  Consumer branch behavior is changing as check usage declines and usage of remote banking alternatives such as online and mobile banking and remote deposit capture grow.  In this new digital age, providers are faced with the dilemma of how to make branches more efficient and cost-effective, while at the same time improving the customer experience by offering financial advice and consultations.
  • New branch redesigns are emphasizing the advisory, customer service, and sales roles these facilities play in the financial behavior of consumers.  Even technology addicts come to branches when they want to make important financial decisions or open more complex products.  Many providers are employing universal staffing so that one representative can serve the varying needs of customers from advice and sales to transactions.  As an aid in enhancing service at the branch some providers are encouraging customers to make appointments with a banker using their mobile phone.
  • There is also an increasing emphasis on moving routine teller transactions to self-service options such as automated deposit terminals, cash recyclers, videoconference terminals, and enhanced ATMs that perform a variety of new functions from cashing checks to the penny to issuing cards.  What is the reaction of consumers to these self-service or automated options at the branch?  The function or role of the branch is not the only aspect that is evolving – branches are also becoming smaller in size.  Will consumers accept smaller branches with fewer staff and more automation?  This survey will explore consumer reaction to new approaches to branch staffing, function, and size to assist providers in designing cost-effective and efficient branch facilities. [F241]

ONLINE BANKING: THE NEXT STEP (Jan 2016)

PC, Mobile, and Tablets

Enhancements and Apps

Personal Financial Management

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 survey, Maximizing Online and Mobile Banking and Payments, revealed that one-third of Internet households only use PC banking, while an equal number use PC banking and Mobile or Tablet banking.  About one-fifth were found to use all three channels.  Has this picture changed and if so, how?

F239 Prop Graphic

Highlights of the Study

This study examines consumer usage of online banking via PC, mobile and tablets.  The potential for broadening usage of these services and consumer reaction to innovative applications are examined as well.
National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

October 23, 2015 — Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
October 23, 2015 — Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
January 2016 — Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • What opportunities exist to expand and enhance PC-based online financial activities – those done via desktop, notebook, or laptop computer?  Beyond account information and basic account transactions, is their further potential for functions related to customer education, account management, and marketing-related activities?
  • What is the role of mobile phones – particularly smartphones – in consumers’ online banking and financial activities?  Are consumers oriented to doing only certain activities on their mobile phones?  Should providers place emphasis on expanding mobile activities or widening the user base?
  • How much share have tablets captured of consumers’ online financial activities and will this continue to expand?  Do they have a position among users as computers, mobile devices, or as something unique?
  • How can financial institutions strengthen and expand customer relationships in the online environment?  What is the experience with and reaction to personal financial management (PFM) applications and tools?  Can apps and alerts create account”stickiness?”  What should be the role of social media?
  • What is the relative preference among consumers for online PC, mobile, and tablet financial activities?  What factors or perceptions drive these preferences?  How wide is multiple channel usage and does this ever impact the completion of a single online activity?
  • What are the relative advantages or benefits of online PC, mobile, and tablet financial activities that should be promoted to expand and increase activity?  Are there perceived problems or disadvantages that may represent barriers to wider usage or adoption among nonusers? Are there segments of consumers that will never move beyond using PCs for online financial activities?
  • Which traits or characteristics – behavioral, attitudinal, or demographic – best identify users of online PC, mobile, and tablet financial activities?  Can shifts in channel preferences over time due to segment preferences – such as younger consumers’ affinity for mobile phones – be anticipated and reacted to by financial providers?

Research Issues

  • Online banking and financial activities, particularly those done by computer, have reached a level of usage that can be described as “mainstream.”  Financial providers are faced with a challenge – and opportunity – in developing future strategies and tactics that will differentiate their online programs from those of competitors. Mobile banking, that is financial activities done via mobile phones, has achieved a notable level of usage but still has wide potential for expansion.  Given that the mobile phone user base is now widespread across virtually all customer segments, promoting the value-added utility of using these devices to access financial accounts and services is a priority for all providers.
  • Tablet banking – encompassing devices such as the iPad, Surface, and e-readers with Web browsing capability – has emerged as the newest innovation in online banking.  Previous research by SYNERGISTICS has already shown some impressive consumer adoption of tablet and e-reader usage for online banking and financial activities.  There is ongoing analysis as to whether this is regarded as a computer to consumers, a mobile device, or something in between.
  • In approaching their online strategies, providers must consider a number of issues. Will consumers have preferences for certain devices over others for specific activities – such as balance inquiries vs. bill payments vs. customer service?  Will apps designed specifically for mobile phones or tablets add utility to those devices in terms of ease of use and convenience?  Should PFM programs be integrated across all three types of devices?  Will the younger, affluent cohort that typically adopts channel innovations maintain this behavior as they move through their financial life cycles or will they establish more long term preferences?  Will widening concerns about financial security and privacy impact usage of all online channels?  To be successful, it is essential for providers to understand the overall consumer perspective on online banking and the attitudes toward and preferences for various devices. [F239]