The New Retail Bank Branch: Innovation or Merely Renovation?

Much press coverage has been devoted to the emerging dominance of online and mobile banking channels—and how those methods seem to almost render obsolete the need for a cost-heavy physical bank branch network. Yet 90% of millennials choose a bank with location convenience in mind, and a majority of retail bank customers still visit a branch at least every six months. Such evidence highlights the importance of maintaining a bricks-and-mortar presence and innovating the in-branch experience to entice both existing and future customers.

Disappointingly, much of what’s touted by retail banks themselves as “innovation” is merely the repackaging of digital channels on an in-branch iPad or minor advancements of existing technology (e.g., contactless ATMs, video tellers, WiFi). In fact, physical “improvements” such as scaling back waiting spaces and removing teller areas serve only to create cramped conditions—and the impression that jobs are being eradicated and personal contact deprioritized.

So what does it take to envision a truly innovative, interactive, future-thinking physical space? How can retail banks push boundaries to create a novel branch experience for customers and clients?