The Problem With The Branch Transformation Journey

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One of those other analyst firms blogged recently about banks’ branch transformation journeys. The post contained a graphic depicting a 2×2 matrix showing how many banks move from the lower left quadrant to the upper left quadrant on their way to the desired state, the upper right quadrant.

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Source: Celent

[There is an unwritten rule among consultants that when drawing a 2×2 matrix, the upper right quadrant is the place to be. Richard Stiennon has even written a book about this.]

My take: I don’t doubt that my friends at the other analyst firm are correct in their assessment of how banks progress through this journey. But banks’ vision (and goals) for this journey is all wrong.

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Increasing transaction automation is the last thing banks should be striving for.

Banks’ right-channeling goal should be: If a transaction can be automated, it should be conducted anywhere BUT the branch.

Why in the world would someone want to go to a bank branch to interact with a piece of technology when there are ATMs, PC monitors, tablets, and smartphones — points of interaction that exist in millions of places that aren’t branches?

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Plenty of pundits talk about how the branch will — or at least should — become a place where customers can discuss their financial needs. The underlying notion behind this is that these types of interactions (which the banks, of course, see as “sales” opportunities) are “higher value” interactions. 

The “sales” label notwithstanding, I agree. 

So why would any bank invest more in enabling the automation of transactions in the branch? I hope it’s not with some sort of delusion that doing so will “free up resources” for the higher value transactions. 

Because let’s be clear about something: The resources who are processing transactions in branches are in no way able to help me or the vast majority of customers with financial guidance, advice or planning decisions. 

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In planning their branch transformation journey, if a bank thinks it’s current level of branch automation is low, then it should re-label the upper quadrants — from “High” to “LOWER.”

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