Have you noticed how banks have evolved?
Branches even crossing over to hospitality sphere to ensure client convenience
Recent reports have suggested that certain parts of banking functions and operations - such as call centres, physical branches and sales teams - could soon be a thing of the past due to recent technological innovations and the progress of digitisation. While I do not completely agree with this view, as bank branches still offer value to consumers and aren't permanently closing, the nature of branches is certainly undergoing a transformation around the world. When it comes to money, consumers always looks for trusted human interaction to seek guidance in order to save, secure or grow their money.
Today, the youth visit bank branches less often than the previous generations, and prefer digital banking for services such as cash withdrawal or cheque deposit. However, this does not mean that they view all digital services as replacements for face-to-face interaction. A recent report by a leading global professional services company Accenture showed that those born in 1995 or later, dubbed Generation Z, are keener to meet with bank representatives for regular consultations in comparison to their predecessors.
Impact of tech on customer experience
With increasing numbers of customers using online and mobile banking services for functions such as researching products, making enquiries, or applying for property, car or education financing, expectations are higher than ever. Technology is breaking all the barriers to further reduce the overall turnaround time day-by-day, and the evolution of technology in the banking sector is continuously transforming.
Today's consumers might choose to visit their bank's branch for many financial services, while demanding the fastest journey within the branch in order to meet their requirements. As a result, bank branches have had to adapt and are under additional pressure to offer multi-faceted digital services. The rising demand for convenience and flexibility has even prompted some to extend their operational hours around the clock.
With a recent global study on technology in banking by multinational software corporation SAP ranking the UAE among the world's top three countries in mobile banking adoption, Noor Bank's philosophy sees every mobile as an extension of a physical bank branch.
New-age design: Meeting customer needs
The rise of disruptive technology has brought about a revolution in the field of bank branch design, with some of the best new designs redefining the customer journey. A branch layout typically focuses on providing a seamless client experience, keeping in mind the level of support customers need.
For example, if you enter a recently-opened bank branch today, you will most likely notice innovative kiosks, ATMs with cash and cheque deposit options in addition to the ubiquitous cash withdrawal, an enquiries lounge and access to phone and internet banking right at the entrance. The convenient location of these facilities means that customers who do not require assistance can take advantage of the services they need instantly and complete their transactions on their own.
When you venture further into the branch, you will come across the next zone with teller counters for clients who need specialised support or have difficulty navigating online services, as well as customer service desks offering in-depth consultations. Some banks have successfully introduced robots and virtual reality solutions to their branches to handle basic transactions, as well as investment and advisory services. Another survey by Accenture also highlighted that consumers are also interested in receiving financial advice from robots. This is a trend picking up rapidly - particularly the wealth management industry - and a quarter of customers surveyed found robo-services more appealing because they "viewed artificial intelligence as more impartial and analytical than humans."
In the pursuit of making the client experience as enjoyable as possible, the branches of some global financial institutions have even crossed over into the hospitality sphere, featuring tasteful decorations, comfortable seating and a large selection of refreshments.
The future of bank branches
Ultimately, the future of bank branches depends on several external factors, such as modifications in consumer behaviour due to innovation in technology - not just in banking but in other spheres as well - and the regulatory landscape within the banking sector.
With several national initiatives such as the Etihad Credit Bureau reporting system for consumers, the demand for digitisation and being technologically-advanced increases day by day. Additionally, other initiatives are underway to establish the UAE as a leader in digital innovation and services, the adoption rate of new technologies among the country's population is at an all-time high.
In this context, we envision bank branches of the future in multiple forms: from specialised customer service centres to unmanned virtual kiosks that can speak and engage in personalised interaction with clients. The common idea is to build a truly smart banking system that aligns with consumer's expectations and exceeds them in all aspects.
The writer is head of distribution at Noor Bank. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
Makers of parts, some of which already being sold abroad, 'can beat... READ MORE
Businesses, individuals relying more on its wide reach and is... READ MORE
Partnership poised to address shortage in the number of quaternary... READ MORE
Saudi Arabia has an opportunity to drive technology-led productivity... READ MORE
UK health secretary says the decision comes after detection of over... READ MORE
The report must also include a QR code which is linked to the... READ MORE
He was unable to realise when his bladder was full and began leaking. READ MORE
The restrictions, put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19, are in ... READ MORE