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Is branch traffic declining? Here are four helpful steps to increase profits

Is foot traffic declining at a few of your branches? If so, then you are not alone. 

A point of emphasis in the financial services industry today is the drop in customers for brick-and-mortar branches. New technology, like the rise of mobile banking, has drawn customers away from your doors and toward their smartphones and tablets. As a result, banks are looking for ways to cut costs, increase profits and stay solvent.

"A decline in branch traffic doesn't have to be synonymous with lost profits."

That admirable goal can feel complicated at times. Analysis from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found more than 94,000 branch closings over the first half of 2014. Over the past several decades, states greatly affected by a decline in branches included Florida, Illinois and Ohio, among others.

Analysts and members of the financial services industry are split over whether the closings are good or bad for banking. Some argue that the trend means new opportunities for the industry, while others say that the trend itself has been overblown.

Either way, you may be experiencing a decline in traffic at select branches in your organization. And, you likely want to do something about that. Here are four viable strategies to maximize your profits at a branch with fewer customers:

1. Analyze your existing branches
Where is your top-performing branch? What does your target audience look like? You need to have answers to these questions, and others like them. Begin by analyzing your existing branches. Research demographics, performance, employee behavior and other critical factors. This information will help you create the right goals and identify areas that need improvement.

2. Adjust your branch staffing
Naturally, your staff is a crucial component of a successful branch. It can also be a key reason why you are losing profits - and traffic. For example, if your sales potential is down, then it is time to reduce the number of employees. Don't continue paying for training and salaries if your branch can't offset those costs. 

The economy, the market and the opportunity for profits is under constant fluctuation. Your branch cannot be locked into one method of staffing. You have to be fluid and open to new ideas, or else you can have the wrong branch design for the current environment. One such trend today is the "universal banker," or the ability for an employee to be a teller, a marketer, a lender or a consultant, all rolled into one.

"Retool your organization to be more in line with today's climate."

3. Change your bank's focus
Changing up your bank's focus is easier said than done, but it might be the right move given today's decline in branch traffic. While customers no longer need to go the bank to cash checks, withdraw money or make deposits, they still have a need for a trusted financial professional.

This is one of the reasons that Ed O'Brien, director of banking channels at Mercator Advisory Group, told the North Carolina-based media outlet the News & Observer that the death of the branch is not yet a reality. He explained that customers want to talk to a person when making important financial, retirement or investment decisions. Your branches could become their destinations.

4. Invest in a cash recycler
Finally, you can increase your profits despite declining branch traffic by investing in the right technology. One of those tools is the cash recycler, for example. This machine handles the cash for your tellers, speeding up efficiency and improving security. The traditional methods for handling cash are outdated, and as a result, branches can be losing money despite their best intentions. With the proper tools in place, those lost profits can be returned to your organization.

A decline in branch traffic is a reality across the country. However, your bank doesn't have to lose money as well. Consider these four tips as you create an effective plan to remain solvent for 2015 and beyond.