Much has been written and discussed when it comes to the Chinese word for “Crisis.”

We’re not experts on Chinese characters, its different dialects, or whether the Western interpretation is right or wrong.

The fact of the matter is that it has been used so much the definition is now accepted regardless.

We’re not going to go down the interpretive rabbit hole. Instead we’ll turn the lens on how this modern interpretation is relevant for our current economic state. Specifically, we’ll look at the situation currently facing Retail Banks and Credit Unions.


With COVID-19, we are very much in a crisis.

There are health risks so severe that they have burdened our hospitals unlike anything seen before. It has had the entire country housebound as a way to limit the spread of this highly contagious disease. Only just now are states beginning to either open or discuss opening back up, but to an unknown immediate future.

Now, the crisis presented by COVID-19 to our economy and the very industry in which we exist has left us scrambling to triage our business and contemplate the future.

Slowly, the shock of the suddenness has worn off and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is upon us.

It may be time to look beyond the danger and find the opportunity in this crisis.

When thinking about Branch Transformation and really Retail Banking in general, the big question is; will it all change?

This is a valid question. When you take a deep breath and apply reason, however, the trends in the industry may be magnified by this crisis, but do not spell the end of the Retail Branch. Digital will continue to grow and have an important play, but the branch and the physical interaction it provides will not go away.

They said the Retail store was doomed when the Internet matured and eCommerce became truly viable both in function and customer adoption. Yet, here we are. Yes, the retail landscape has changed, but it really just evolved. Now, even Amazon, the very company that is perceived as the death knell for many retailers, actually operates its own brick and mortar stores.

This is Omnichannel and no different for Retail Banks.

The opportunity in this crisis is to not panic, but to bring critical strategies to the forefront and set your organization up for a strong, healthy future.

Any future stage is uncertain. But you still must plan and execute just the same.

4 Areas of Opportunity


Now is the time to be innovative. The only thing constant in life is change. Now, perhaps more than any time in our professional lives, is the right time to implement change.

Change can be made in operational models, digital investments, technology, branding, and the branch itself.

Omnichannel has been and will continue to be critical. While the idea of digital has gotten a lot of press lately, your customers will still want the choice and option of a digital or in-person interaction (even if it means wearing a mask).

Now may very well be the time to invest in the right technology. While machinery like Recyclers and Interactive Teller Machines (ITM’s) are not new, these technologies will come to the forefront as a way to offer transactional services in a near-contactless scenario. With the right technology deployment, comes the branch.

Branch Network

If you’re like most and have one, if not many, social media handles for you to catch up with friends, family, and cat videos, you most likely have seen the Internet crawling with posts of what people have been doing with themselves since self-quarantining. Many people have found this as an opportunity to take up a hobby, finish a project, or even take on a project from scratch entirely.

When looking at your Branch Network, perhaps this is not all that different. Use this Crisis as an opportunity to:

Optimize – Almost any Retail FI with a fleet of branches has a couple that are underperforming. These ones can prove to be a burden on the books. Whether you know it indefinitely or need to run some additional analysis, now may be the time to close those that underperform and refresh your fleet.

Refresh – Like most FI’s that we deal with, there is great inconsistency in the retail fleet. This can be a combination of when they came on line or the host of technology and design styles. Set yourself up for the future with a consistent fleet of branches. Institute a true Hub & Spoke model so your customers have a consistent experience no matter where they are.

Expand – Growth may be a daunting concept, particularly in this crisis, but some of the more notable and respected FI’s in the space saw the opportunity back in the 2008 Great Recession. Many of your competitors will go stagnant. This will provide you with an opportunity to gain traction in new markets with new customers. Ultimately, you’ll be able to grow your assets.

Real Estate

The opportunity to grow in markets and on the optimal street corner will become more present. In a financial and economic crisis, business will fail. Financial Institutions will fail. Land to build and buildings to occupy will be there for the taking and at much better prices than just a couple of months ago.

Build Costs

Costs of goods will go down. From raw materials to labor, including Design and Construction, services will be driven downward due to supply chain impacts and fewer overall projects. If you’ve ever wanted to build, the cost to do so may never be as effective as the period we’re entering.

How your company responds in this time is up to you. Yes, there are inevitably forces beyond your control and sometimes wishes and tactics are only as good as the tools to do something about it.

If you’re in a position to do something about it, and need a partner to help you form and realize your vision, contact us today to begin the conversation.