The Branch Isn't Dead After All

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22 February 2011
Bart Narter
Celent hosted an event in London with Anthony Thomson, co-founder and chairman of Metro Bank. Metro Bank is the first new High Street (main street retail) bank in the UK in over 100 years and is founded on the same precepts (with the same founder) that launched (now TD) Commerce Bank, "America's Most Convenient Bank." Metro Bank talked about a customer acquisition strategy that relied in large part on a branch expansion in Greater London. They expect to have 220 branches in Metro London with 10 years. One of the Metro Bank tenets is that customers will trade rate for a better retail experience. Now we hear that JPMorgan Chase. CEO of Retail Financial Services Charlie Scharf is planning to open up to 2,000 new offices over the next five years with a focus on California and Florida. Hasn't he heard of alternative channels. Didn't these banks get the memo? The branch is dead! What do these banks know that other don't?


  • I've not heard one banker tell me branches were dead — not once in 15 years. The only people who have made that claim are consultants, most of whom work in the online/digital space, and even then, they are only looking at the transactional side of branches.

    In the last 3-6 months, I've seen new prototype branches coming from Citi, Umpqua, RBC, BofA, et al. These banks recognize branches are changing. They are experimenting and evolving their store designs accordingly.

    Saying "branches are dead" might have seemed plausible in the mid 90s when the internet was taking off, but these days it just makes someone sound foolish.

  • Jeffry,

    No branch isn't dead, which is why I entitled this posting, The Branch Isn't Dead After All. I was being somewhat glib, when I say, "Didn't these banks get the memo? The Branch is Dead!" and that doesn't come across in a blog.

    We invited a speaker at a Celent event to talk about how he using branch experience to build a bank. I do believe that banks need to rethink the role of the branch in that we at Celent are seeing declining branch transaction counts. Branches won't die; they will evolve.

  • The Branch as we know it IS dead... it just hasn't happened yet. Just as with the case of buggy-whip makers who were shocked that their product became obsolete with the proliferation of automobiles, Bankers will find that the Branch will evolve into something that is completely different.

    There will be fewer branches, they will be smaller, entirely focused on value-added activity (financial planning, lending, investments, etc.) and have fewer employees who are more like Sales people rather than tellers.

    Will the Bank Branch disappear - No; will it evolve to a point beyond today's recognition - ABSOLUTELY!

    PS: there will also be many fewer FIs (Banks and Credit Unions) in the US.

  • Yes, I completely agree. Please see my report on the pressures on small banks: It Takes More than a Village: The Decline of the Community Bank

    or Bob Meara's report:

    Branch Banking in a Multichannel World, Parts I and II

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