Bank Branches: Not Quite Obsolete Yet, but Getting There

Have you visited a bank or credit union branch in the past six months? If your answer is “no,” you’re in good company: Bankrate reports that nearly four in ten Americans could say the same thing.

In fact, the percentage of Americans who say they haven’t visited a branch in the previous six months is up 34% from 2014.

Those that are visiting branches, aren’t doing so as often as they once did.

Bankrate said that the propensity to have visited a branch in the past 30 days was fairly even across age groups, ranging from 41% for Millennials to 48% for those ages 50 to 64.

What does this say about bank branches? Are they going the way of the Dodo Bird?

It’s safe to say that the more we can get done remotely (via mobile and online banking), and the less we use cash for purchases, the less we need to visit branches.

So, we should see a continuing decline in the frequency of visits to branches. This doesn’t mean that branches are obsolete, only that they’re less necessary than they were in the past.

This poses a dilemma for banks and credit unions, since consumer still need branches for certain things, and they still want them to be conveniently located. How do financial institutions justify the expense of keeping branch networks open, when they are being used less and less?

There’s no easy answer to this dilemma.

Sure, creating remote options for such formerly branch-dependent transactions as deposit capture and loan closing will provide fewer reasons for keeping branches open – yet some customers will still want the personal touch, some of the time.

Smaller credit unions really feel this dilemma, since they already struggle with the expense of branches, but gain great advantage from offering the personal touch of person-to-person banking.

CUs (and community banks) will have to come up with some brave, creative solutions to keep banking personal without the brick and mortar.

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