The Tablet Stampede: How Branches Will Change in the Short Term

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23 September 2015

Celent Branch Transformation Panel Series Part 2


Long before most banks launch new branch designs, tablets will be commonplace in legacy branches in an effort to improve customer engagement.

In the report The Tablet Stampede: How Branches Will Change in the Short Term, Celent offers an analysis of its second Branch Transformation Research Panel survey, which examines banks’ near- and medium-term branch channel objectives, recognizing that larger transformation initiatives will be years in the making.

A June 2015 survey found that over 60% of institutions felt that tablet usage by front line branch personnel would be “extremely likely.” The August 2015 survey explored how tablets would be used and found that institutions are planning to both supplement and replace desktops. Tablets will soon be used to facilitate sales and service interactions as well as to assist self-service transactions.

Banks face many obstacles, however. Chief among them is a lack of tablet readiness among vendor branch automation software applications.

“Tablets will quickly become a common fixture in the branch,” says Bob Meara, a senior analyst with Celent’s Banking practice and coauthor of the report. “But, with most software platforms not yet tablet-ready, usage will initially be limited to simple tasks.”

Several additional insights from the research include:

  • Banks are focused on a triumvirate of synergistic, short-term branch channel objectives: sales effectiveness, cost reduction, and digital channel adoption. Digital channel adoption is viewed both as a cost reduction play and as a more important strategic imperative to ensure customers “see what the bank has to offer.”
  • Cost reduction efforts, beginning with staff reductions and targeted branch closures, are well under way, led by larger banks. More structural changes are viewed as highly likely, but will take longer.
  • Integrating physical and digital channels is a high short-term priority, with obtaining a single version of truth (the proverbial 360-degree customer view) as well as coordinating account and loan origination activities across channels the most pressing objectives. Digital appointment booking is an important short-term capability for larger banks, with a third of panelists rating that capability “extremely important.” More esoteric examples of digital channel integration such as geolocation and prestaging transactions are comparatively unimportant.
  • Tablets will see widespread usage according to the panel, and a majority is well on their way with specific use cases in testing environments. Tablets will be used in both assisted self-service and sales/service interactions, replacing desktop workstations in some cases. Lack of branch automation software support is the most commonly cited barrier to their use.
  • Branch software environments are slowly changing. Emerging environments will leverage middleware and rely on browser-based user interfaces to accommodate a growing number of branch-based devices. Evolution to an omnichannel platform will be far off for most institutions.

This is the second of a series of reports based on Celent’s newly created Branch Transformation Research Panel. The purpose of the effort is to look deeply into the objectives, priorities, risks, barriers, and likely outcomes of the growing trend that is branch channel transformation in North America. Panelists were recruited among Celent clients and nonclients alike. Celent is accepting additional requests for membership in the panel and expects to field ongoing research through 2016 at semi-monthly intervals. To request to be on the Branch Transformation Research Panel, apply online.