NatWest bank has launched a video banking service which allows customers to have appointments with bank staff anytime, anywhere.
Video banking teams will be located at NatWest centres in Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast, with customers connecting to them face to face via devices.
NatWest said this service will offer customers the “same sense of personal interaction they’d experience with a branch appointment.” Customers will have access to advice about any of their banking products, just like in a branch. It also means customers don’t have to travel to a branch.
What it didn’t say, but what is a major advantage as a bank, is that it is much cheaper than providing a branch network.
Marcelino Castrillo, managing director personal banking at NatWest said: “We know that customers value the personal interaction from our highly trained staff, and this technology will allow them to reach even more customers to help them reach their financial goals.”
Customers can book an appointment on NatWest’s website. They will need a device that has a camera or webcam and connection to Wi-Fi or 3G/4G data.
Branch networks across Europe are being decimated as banks seek to cut costs and customers increasingly move to digital channels including mobile app based banking.
A survey of more than 13,000 consumers carried out by financial services review firm Smart Money People last year revealed that mobile apps have become the UK’s most popular banking channel at the expense of the online channel.
In the 2018 survey, 39% of respondents said they preferred apps to bank with. This compared with just over 30% in the same survey in 2017. Branch banking was preferred by 11% of respondents in 2018, compared with 12.2% in 2017.
It appears branches are kept open for a shrinking number of customers. If you can give a more human engagement to people that want it, there seems little need for a large branch network.
But how long will it be before the teams in the video banking units are replaced by robots? I know from recent discussions with IPSoft CEO Chetan Dube, that the company’s cognitive agent Amelia can turn its hand to banking if required. Amelia doesn’t take holidays, lunch, or a pension.