It’s that time of year again. This is when we look ahead to stick our necks out and make bold claims regarding the year to come.

While we don’t claim to be soothsaying, we do have the crystal ball and know how to interpret its readings. So here, in a two-part series, we outline trends and share our thoughts on what is to come. This way, you can interpret and translate accordingly for your 2021 strategic plans.

Branch Matters

While saying the branch will change is an obvious statement on the surface, as any retail setting inevitably ebbs and flows with the times, these are most unusual times. It’s no mystery that the COVID-19 has altered the course of banking, retail, and the economy as a whole.

What began to unfold in mid to late March 2020 was reactionary. It was a triage of our retail facilities (and employee facilities) as impact was still unfolding. While the impact of the pandemic is still very much at play in our daily lives, enough time has transpired to understand its effect on our businesses. 2021 retail strategies need to incorporate COVID’s legacy.

Aside from the simple and expected sanitization stations, the branch needs to evolve for a post-pandemic world. If an “open concept” branch was just a trend

previously, it is a necessity now. While there may come a day when social distancing is not mandated, it will remain a practice with a long hangover in our collective consciousness. Your branch layout needs to accommodate for it.

While some believe that traditional Teller Lines still have a place in the branch, Teller Towers are at the forefront like never before. These pods, with the right Banking Equipment, enable a more open floor plan while eliminating the old-school queuing.

Rise of the Machines

No, we’re not talking about robots inheriting the earth. The right blend of technology will modernize your branch, enhance the overall retail experience, enable social distancing naturally, and make traditional in-branch transactions that much more efficient.

The right blend of technology, both in and outside of your branch, will enhance the overall customer experience. This, in turn, will further justify the need for branch visits.

Teller Cash Recyclers work perfectly affixed to a Teller Tower. It enables Universal Tellers to man these stations while also giving them the flexibility to walk about the branch.

Interactive Teller Machines have been a much discussed and much contemplated piece of technology. Now, they have as much justification as ever before with the Renaissance seen in the drive through. ITMs in your drive-through give visitors the transactional need while also allowing for an interactive experience, albeit virtually.

The Omni-Channel Dilemma

It is no secret that digital transactions have risen since the pandemic hit last Spring. The reliance on digital methods became the only option when branches closed. Those who were reluctant to take advantage of simple transactions and information via Online Banking portals or Apps were forced to do so out of necessity and lack of options.

What is more surprising, though, is that in-branch transactions, particularly those involving account openings, has nearly, if not entirely rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

So the question is: Do you invest in the Branch, or do you invest in your Digital Channels?

When you come to a fork in the road… take it. By this we mean, you should be investing equally in your offline and online channels. You always should have been.

Digital products and technological marvels get all the headlines. A more balanced omni-channel approach to your clients, however, has always been the right answer.

Sure, budgets may swing in favor of digital one year, then back to the retail branch the next. This is all a balancing act in what should be an equally weighted customer touchpoint strategy that unfolds over the course of many years as part of a well-executed three, five, even ten year strategic plan.

Executing this accurately, thoughtfully, and strategically, gives you a well-executed customer experience.

Experience Good Experience

If you have any web or app developers on your team, or if you’ve ever in a development meeting, you’ve heard words like “frictionless” and “UX.”Gone are the days of bloated and cavernous digital engagements. A digital design wants as few dead ends and wrong paths as possible, providing a frictionless experience. UX, or User Experience, is king when it comes to designing a new website and smartphone application. Extensive planning happens before any code is written or deployed.

Your branch should be no different. If the idea of a good customer experience in your retail setting is news to you, it is not too late. The branch is going through an evolution the wake of the pandemic. Now, more than ever, you truly need to be thinking engagement and experience first when it comes to your branch.

The branch is important, and while digital channels should not be seen as a replacement for functions in the branch, they should be complimentary and designed equally from a UX perspective.

Give your visitors a reason to continue to come in. Whether it be traditional transactions or advisory sessions, the branch is still an important piece in your omni-channel strategy.

Allow the right technology to perform transactions. The right staff on point to answer the right questions, and, more importantly, open accounts, is where your branch should really shine.

Blending transactions and advisory services into a seamless retail experience is the right approach.


Next week, we’ll conclude this two-part Crystal Ball series.

In the meantime, if you would like to jump into addressing some of your glaring branch shortcomings, our Re-FI Design Program is the perfect anecdote to an outdated branch.

Contact us today for a free, no obligation assessment.