Mobile branches can come in many shapes and sizes — from a simple ATM on wheels, to a full-service branch staffed with two or more employees. Regardless of size and functions, all mobile branches share one distinct feature: maneuverability.
Ever since the internet came along, branch traffic has been declining. For a while now, financial institutions have looked for ways to bring people back into branches. That’s led some institutions to start thinking beyond the traditional brick-and-mortar box by integrating mobile branches into their distribution strategy — seeking out consumers rather than waiting for consumers to find them.
According to John Baker, CEO of MBF Industries, mobile branch sales have increased 10-15% year-over-year for the past five years, and he forecasts those numbers will continue to grow as more institutions seek out the cost-effective benefits and flexibility mobile branches afford.
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If your institution is among those considering mobile branches as part of its retail distribution strategy, here are five things you’ll want to think about before starting the design process.
1. Technology — The decreasing cost of technology is really what makes mobile branches a cost-effective option for institutions today. Ten years ago, it cost institutions a truckload simply to deploy an ATM, particularly considering the expense to hook up the internet. These days a single mobile branch can afford to have multiple ATMs — both inside the branch and out. They can also come packed with self-service tools like interactive kiosks and interactive teller machines (also called video tellers). Branch employees can have fully-functioning workstations for loan processing. And digital signage can be used to promote, cross-sell, and educate visitors on products and services. Quite simply, if it’s a technology used in brick-and-mortar location, it can likely be used in mobile branches as well.
2. Staffing — Depending on the overall purpose of the mobile branch, you can choose to have staff or not. A simple mobile ATM for a concert or festival does not require employees. Furthermore, if a mobile branch is outfitted with self-service technology, it’s also unlikely employees would be a necessity. However, if the purpose of the mobile branch is to help acquire new customers, open more accounts or increase loan volume, then employees might be needed. In some situations, you may need staffers to help guide people through the self-service technology solutions you provide. Or hey… it might just be nice to have a few warm, friendly faces greeting the public with smiles.
3. Function & Flow — Besides just providing people with easy access to cash, mobile branches will often also serve in an educational capacity. In this case, the flow needs to be focused on flexibility, with well-defined signage to make it easy for consumers to interact with the branch’s various technology components. Loan-focused mobile branches should have comfortable spaces for people to sit and have some privacy.
4. Market Penetration — Mobile branches are very effective at generating traffic and awareness of new, full-service locations before they open, while they are still under construction (or even before you break ground). You can also locate mobile branches at venues like concerts, parks, community events and other similarly high-trafficked areas. This does more than just provide a convenient banking option for people, it can expose your financial institution to prospects and new customers in ways that traditional branches typically don’t.
5. Brand Awareness — One of the biggest advantages of the mobile branch solution is brand awareness. The entire branch serves as a billboard for the bank or credit union, and in locations that the institution could not normally reach, like outside a sporting event.