The banking community of the Asia Pacific region continues to impress with its commitment to the branch.
From Japan to Australia and across to the Indian sub-continent the last decade has seen many exciting new branch concepts. And only recently, announcements from both Metrobank and EastWest in the Philippines talked about another major expansion of retail branch networks.
Retail banking is about the development of profitable customer relationships and the branch is still the best platform from which to achieve this strategic objective. Yes, the new generation of e-channels are developing apace.
However, evidence from across the region and the World confirms that the branch remains the lead channel for bankers.
At the heart of a successful branch strategy are three critical success factors that are common to most markets.
The big three! These are location, branch design and staff customer engagement skills.
Location is a multi-dimensional factor that embraces issues such as the siting of a branch and the mindset of the footfall.
Successful branch design requires a bank to take an approach that reconciles the expectations and needs of both customers and staff, with the requirement to produce a return on investment (ROI). This of course opens up the issue of segmented branches.
The launch of the Remix concept by DBS in 2011, is based on a dramatic design created by a competition run by the bank. Elsewhere, HSBC continue to roll out their highly successful Premier service with its dedicated lounges for these higher net worth clients. Other related issues include the brand at the branch, and self service strategy.
Strident calls for banks ‘to be more like retailers’ should be treated with care as they often run contrary to customer expectations and the basis on which they make their purchasing decision. Indeed, if banks are to learn from another sector there is now strong evidence across the global market that this should be the hospitality industry.
Which brings us to the matter of staff customer engagement skills. Shinsei Bank was amongst the industry leaders in recognising the critical nature of this issue and many other banks across the region now also understand the need for a strong model of required staff behaviours.
With customers turning away from the ‘IVR Hell’ of call centres across the World, in favour of desktops and mobiles, banks should now be firmly committed to a delivery channel strategy based on bricks and clicks. Within this, their challenge is to build branches that their target customer groups want to come to. The ‘big three’ issues have a critical role to play in ensuring their success.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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David Cavell advises banks around the world on the development of profitable delivery channel and branch strategies. Contact: email@example.com