While bank customers are increasingly turning to digital tools for standard financial transactions, such as paying bills or managing credit card and checking accounts, this focus on technology does not signal the end of the bank branch, as some have claimed. Rather, it signals the opportunity for banks to transform the branch experience by deepening the human touch.

In my previous post, I shared how technology is transforming the branch experience and driving a new model of the bank branch as a strategic financial partner. In this post, I’ll provide a deeper look into the implications of this transformation for financial institutions as well as their employees and customers.

The need for trusted advisors

Simple online transactions are one thing. Making decisions that have serious impacts on an individual’s financial future are another. Although automation can now provide some level of guidance and recommendation in this space, there is still significant room for human input in the more complex and nuanced financial decision-making process. It is in this latter realm that bank branches can take a significant step forward toward meeting their customers’ needs―face-to-face, one-to-one, with a human touch.

This new vision of the bank branch as strategic advisor calls for a new type of branch talent—a pool of trusted, experienced, financial advisors and bank representatives who can guide customers toward developing a sound financial strategy and making better financial decisions.

While this new vision of the branch and its employees is very appealing, it comes with two significant challenges:

  1. The lack of a receptive and substantial bank branch audience demanding these services
  2. Poor understanding on the part of branch management of the skills required, and therefore no real view of the gap between needed and current skills

The challenges

The majority of bank customers still view their banking relationships as merely transactional. They have not yet acknowledged, in significant numbers, their need for other, more strategic financial services nor the value a branch can bring in terms of filling that need―perhaps in part due to some level of mistrust over bank staff providing this type of counsel. Banks must market aggressively to change these perceptions.

Firms will also need to retool branches into a network that better serves the needs of target audiences, blends soft skills with digital capabilities to meet varied requirements, and broadens their range of services to appeal to every customer group―including the growing Millennial population, which happens to value the kind of personal touch these new-style bank branches are positioned to offer.

In terms of talent, banks and other financial institutions are already facing a skill deficit, in part because of changing generational dynamics in the workplace. Experienced Baby Boomers are retiring and Millennials are hesitant to enter the financial services industry. While approximately one quarter of banks expect a skill deficit in coming years, indications are that the skills gap will exceed these expectations. Compounding the issue is ambiguity about what types of skills will be needed in this new model.

In my next post, I’ll share the three things financial institutions can do to re-imagine the branch banking experience and nurture the type of talent that can help create a human touch experience.

To learn more about the human touch in banking, please see:

Branching out: The case for the human touch in banking

Transforming the banking branch

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