In last week’s White Paper, we looked at what has transpired and what is to come for Retail Banks and Credit Unions regarding COVID-19. There, we identified 5 distinct levels of preparedness. As you’ll see below, we are currently in a bridge period between LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 3. Here, we’ll dive deeper into each of these levels. More importantly, though, we’ll discuss what you can be doing to prepare for whichever level you’re in, and for which level is approaching.

LEVEL 1 – Close/Limit Branch Operations

Description – This level has now past, and you are already beginning to look ahead. You are likely finding yourself in LEVEL 2 or even LEVEL 3.

Timeline – March & April 2020

Action –  Branches were completely closed. Of those that stayed open, hours were altered and traffic was directed to drive-thru’s, digital channels, and customer service lines.

LEVEL 2 – Identify The Quick Fixes

Description – Your internal teams at the Executive, Retail, Operational, and Marketing levels have met and begun to look beyond the closures and limited hours. They are now discussing what permanent or semi-permanent measures need to be taken in preparation for an eventual re-opening. These conversations have likely already taken place, but whether they are completed, or need to be revisited is different.

Aside from branch/staffing operations and client communication measures, the “quick fixes” looking to be implemented include Sanitization Stations and protective shields, also known as “sneeze guards.”

Timeline – April & May 2020

Action – If you are looking for assistance in sourcing these in-branch materials, contact us for guidance.

LEVEL 3 – Open & Optimize Branch Network

Description – At this point in time, you are probably at this level. Branches are just beginning to open again or they’re opening imminently. Now that procedures are in place, staff has been (re)trained in operating the branch in this new normal. There is an interesting duality here that needs to be addressed.

In one regard, you need to pay close attention to how the early stages of your reopening are going. Not only from a benchmark and performance perspective, but from a health perspective.

How is your staff managing the new procedures? Do they feel safe and do they feel capable of doing their job under new guidelines and restrictions? What about your clients – of those that have returned? Do they feel comfortable in your branch? Are they distancing appropriately? Are they able to conduct simple transactions and receive counsel on financial questions while masked, 6 feet apart, and perhaps from the other side of a protective shield? These new scenarios are the new normal, at least until they are no longer relevant or needed.

The second consideration here is to begin looking at your overall branch network holistically. Now is the time to begin assessing a longer term analysis on how branches were prior to COVID-19. With those benchmarks, assessments will need to be made if those performance trends continue, flip, or possibly become greater.

Regardless of the direction of branch performance, you will likely need to do a branch assessment to build a business case on what to do with these assets.

Timeline – May & June 2020

Action – You can look at the trends of your branches in this new normal, but LEVEL5 can help you assess your branches. Our “Current Branch Network Plan” is the perfect path forward to look at your overall branch network and assess both past and current performances. Most importantly, however, we will use our custom and proprietary algorithms to run a 10-year proforma for each of your branches. We will give definitive recommendations on next steps as a result

LEVEL 4 – Establish New Prototype Branch

Description – Now that the assessments have begun, it’s time to begin to look ahead at establishing a new Design for your branch network. The notion of a consistent branch design with essential branded elements and iconic features has always been a necessity. This is more about the remodeling of existing branch layouts to accommodate the branch going forward. While reactionary measures have likely taken place by this stage (distance markers, protective shields, sanitization stations), a more permanent remodeling can begin to take shape.

The LEVEL5 design team can look at your current branch network and provide you actionable drawings that can speak to an overall better client flow through the branch. This includes permanently placed sanitization stations and the possible removal of some fixtures to allow for more natural spacing. It also includes the introduction of the right technology to make your branch as “contactless” as it needs to be.

Timeline – July – December 2020

ActionContact LEVEL5 today to begin your Branch Design Assessment, a holistic Design review of each branch in your fleet, what will need to be changed or introduced, and ultimately, what this would look like, both visually through professional renderings, and budget to act upon the concepts.

LEVEL 5 – Begin Branch Expansion

Description – The final level of branch preparedness will begin to take action in 2021, but should begin to be planned in mid to late 2020. By now, you have course corrected your current retail network from an optimization and functional perspective. It is now time to begin turning your attention to growth once again. The road to economic recovery may still be protracted, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t new accounts to win, new geographies to expand into, and new branches to plan. Land and construction costs will be cheaper than they have been in many years. Real estate availability will be better than ever. The costs for Design and Build will be lowered due to less overall demand.

Timeline – January 2021 & Onward

Action – The LEVEL5 Branch Growth Plans is the perfect consultative approach. This data driven package looks at your overall expansion plans, both in current and net new geographies. It will supply you with an ROI, 10 year branch Proforma, staffing modeling, and branch type modeling. This will all help you de-risk your overall decisions.

Regardless of how you are approaching your branch operations, we hope our White Paper and this 5-stage guide helps you formulate a path forward to compartmentalize key strategic considerations as these months unfold.

Continue to stay safe and good luck.