The Bank Branch ‘Convenience’ Paradox

Filene just released an interesting study called “Who’s Joining Credit Unions.” Of particular interest is data that suggests a paradox between how people feel about branches and how they actually use them.

While credit union members think they need a branch nearby, the data tells a different story. According to the report, the majority of credit union members use a branch once a month or less.

Despite their low usage of branches, they want more of them. When asked what would improve their experience with their credit union, members’ #1 answer was “More ATMs.” The #2 answer: “More branches.”

Key Question: What the heck is going on here?

Branch and ATM convenience can’t be the only way to win deposits…can it?

Do people only want the perception of convenience?

To take a trip to a branch once a month (or less) doesn’t seem like that big an ordeal, even if it’s over five miles. There are plenty of people who drive further than that to go to Home Depot or Costco once a month. Heck, there are plenty of folks who drive five or more miles to get a coffee from Starbucks.

Key Question: Does branch and ATM convenience apply to people looking for loans? Or does it only apply to depositors and transactors?

Perhaps the problem lies in the type of question we — as financial researchers — pose to people. Give them a choice and they seem to say, “Hey, it doesn’t cost me any money when you build more branches, so go for it. Give me some more.”

What do you think? What’s going on here? Can you explain it?

Key Takeaway: If you don’t have a large branch presence — and most financial institutions don’t — your marketing needs to stress your delivery-channel alternatives to branches and ATMs.

Other insights from the Filene report:

  • Credit unions look to have the most success targeting families with household incomes between $70,000 and $130,000.
  • Friends and family continue to be the #1 way in which people hear about a credit union. Essentially, one-if-three new members come from the referral of a friend of family member.
  • For credit unions with an open charter, one-in-16 new members are enticed by a newspaper ad. Around one-in-ten people learn about their credit union by driving by. One-in-100 come from the internet.

You can download the entire report from Filene here (registration required).

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