3 smart solutions to improve branch longevity

The bank branch of tomorrow will be vastly different than the bank branch of yesterday. This is inevitable - consumer preferences are changing, technology is evolving and financial institutions have to do more to stay ahead of the curve.

While the popularity of new banking trends is hard to ignore, this doesn't mean that it's the end of the road for the bank branch. In fact, the bank branch is often a staple of the neighborhood and a desirable feature for customers.

"Branches are here to stay, but they still need an upgrade."

"If you ever want to know whether people care about their branch, try closing it down," Stephen Mitcham, chief executive at the Cambridge Building Society, told Banking Technology. "If you want to be vilified by your local community, give it a go. We had more people write to us complaining about plans to close branches than we had doing transactions there."

However, this doesn't mean a branch can't evolve. Instead, it must adapt to changing consumer demands, or else they may soon not care whether or not a branch shuts down. With that in mind, here are three smart solutions to keep a branch popular for years to come:

1. Balance physical with digital
Banks that are integrated with technology stand the best chance to survive. The most common tool is the new ATM - one that can perform many of the functions of a teller. However, other options, like cash recyclers to handle money, mobile banking platforms and a redesigned website, can also be beneficial. The overall theme should be a balance between the brick-and-mortar branch and the online and mobile services people have come to love.

2. Create a new employee
The days are gone where the wall of tellers is the most effective form of branch design. Now, employees have to be versatile. Many branches are opting for "pods," where tellers are transformed into universal bankers who can answer a wide range of questions. Customers can approach the individual pod to talk to a professional who can help them complete a variety of tasks. 

3. Smarten up branch design
Your bank shouldn't look like your competitor's bank, even though many financial institutions have a similar feel between branches. Today, there are a wide range of options for a newer and more effective branch design. For example, you can go for the pod design mentioned earlier. Or you could include a self-service cafe. You might also want upgrade your waiting room area or just simply implement a cosmetic makeover. Whatever you do, don't let your bank feel like it is stuck in the past.