Bank branches being used more despite online services surge

Customers' use of bank branches is increasing in parallel with the surging take-up of online banking services, according to research

Customers' use of bank branches is increasing in parallel with the surging take-up of online banking services, according to research.

A survey of more than 3,600 current account holders in the UK, carried out by Accenture, found that 52% use a branch at least once a month, compared with 45% when the last study was carried out in 2012. Meanwhile, 80% of consumers use online banking services at least once a month, the study found.

The findings also revealed that 27% of consumers now use mobile banking, compared with 22% in 2012 and 10% in 2011.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is the youngest group of consumers, those aged between 18 and 24, that reported the biggest increase in visiting branches. Some 54% said they use their bank at least once a month. 

And despite this generation growing up in the mobile and online world, they were the least receptive to the idea of a digital-only bank. Only 22% said they would consider a digital-only bank with no branches or telephone support, whereas 33% of the 25-to-34 age group said they would.

The British Bankers Association (BBA) revealed in a report last week that UK citizens now perform online and mobile banking transactions worth almost £1bn a day.

In its The Way We Bank Now: It’s in Your Hands report, the BBA revealed that just 16% of consumers have never used online or mobile banking and that an average of over 15,000 people have downloaded banking apps every day in 2014. The use of contactless payments is also surging, with £6.1m expected to be spent this way every week in 2014, compared with £3.2m a week in 2013.

However, the Accenture research emphasises the importance of bank branches for non-transactional services. This supports Barclays’ plan to retrain cashiers to offer customers more consultative services. The bank said it is retraining 6,500 traditional branch staff so they can offer customers a financial management service as IT increasingly takes care of day-to-day transactions.

From 1 October, traditional Barclays cashiers will become “community bankers”, and branch staff will be equipped with iPads to help customers, rather than sitting behind a desk.

Peter Kirk, a managing director in Accenture’s Financial Services group, said the survey reveals the complexity of customer interaction with banks today. “The youngest, most tech-savvy customers still value face-to-face contact as they begin their life’s financial journey, whereas older customers who are further along in their work life are more open to a digital-only relationship,” he said. 

“There is also evidence that some customers are not satisfied by their banks’ current digital offerings. This presents difficult questions for banks as they look to balance digital channels with costly branch networks and deliver relevant services.”

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