The reducing number of people using branches is probably a reflection of the rate of transactions in all retail outlets. If there are less people pounding the pavement to go shopping, its likely that they'll also not be walking in to a bank.
There is also a bank MO that comes into play: trying to lock me in to their services. For example, when a bank insists I perform certain transactions in person (Citizens, when I want to withdraw a CD for example) that could be done by phone or Internet (ok, phone if their online banking system sucks), I tend to close ALL my accounts. If I'm going to make the effort of going to the branch, I'm going to make sure that I close everything, all in one go. Restrictive practices do not lock me in, they make me feel trapped and resentful.
I wonder how many people feel the same way, and whether that number is growing as the generation of kids who only know a 24/7 online world start earning cash that is deposited directly to their bank account. Why on earth would they want to deal with a 1970's style institution that insists they stand in line in a branch, waiting for someone to assist them. Unlikely, when even calling a call center in Mumbai, being in line is no worse than having to listen to crappy muzak and catching up on some Facebook or Twitter time.
Some banks seem to have it right: Bank of America, despite have an expansive branch network has started to say that certain transactions can only be done online. Which is good, as their online service is well thought out, and works well. (Its a shame you have to be a US citizen to open an account with them, even when you already hold an account, but that's not effecting much of their customer base I'm sure.)
Citizens Bank, maybe they're suffering from old school Scottish banking thinking. Plus they need systems and workflows to manage transactions that are not completed there and then by a teller in a branch. Nothing fancy, but enough to get the job done (contact me - online - I can help you!). Citizens, and likely many other banks, need to think about transitioning to an online only world, or just shutting their old-fashioned doors for good.
A post from the Improving It blog
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