Has Mobile killed the bank branch?

 

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Neil Ballinger, Head of UX at Nimbletank

Now that Smartphones are bedded into our culture, banking as we know it is on its way out 

Banking as we know it, is on its way out. Traditional products, services and the branch are becoming redundant. It’s not time to call in the demolition teams yet, but there can be no denying that smartphones and their surrounding technology have completely changed the way younger people think about banking.

Mobile devices have changed us from a nation of owners to lifestyle livers.

A trend most evident in town high streets, where shops have closed down and turned into trendy restaurants and cafes because we no longer spend our time going from store-to-store with shopping bags. Instead, we sit on our sofas buying clothes and homeware on our smartphones.

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Smartphones are saving us from the mundane tasks of life. Such as a weekend appointment to visit to your bank manager to open a new account, order a credit card or discuss a mortgage.

Mobile has disrupted the way we need to look at banking. No longer are users looking to create a relationship with a bank manager. Saturday appointments will be a thing of the past, when you can simply download an app and order a card to your door. An unpleasant process has been turned into a simple one.

Millennials are holding the Scythe

Banking and financial services are being driven forward the emergence of the Millennial generation, empowered by their devices. Millennials find no importance in building relationships with bank managers. They think of money, credit, pensions as utility services that they can carry around like their music. As house prices become less affordable and having a healthy pension to retire on is becoming less realistic, Millennials are saving to spend in the here-and-now, making life-long relationships with banks obsolete.

Smartphones and related technology are giving young people the technology they need to view financial products as utilities rather than relationships to be built. With the emphasis within the Financial sector and Fintech centred around making their products simpler, more accessible and user-centric, it’s easy to imagine the landscape of the physical bank being done away with very soon.

Challenger banks in the West such as Atom Bank and Monzo are already rethinking the relationships people have with their banks. Smartphones are at the centre of both of them. The implications of Fintech companies such as these go way beyond customer service and the physical context of a bank branch. Challenger banks are tapping into the lifestyles of their consumers and creating new services to improve and simplify their lives.

Exciting advances in Fintech are happening all over the world. Among a multitude of truly innovative companies, China’s WeChat allow users to split their bills with friends, Spixii, a UK company have created a Chatbot using powerful AI technology that will buy and manage all of your insurance policies through you, all through an app. Thirdly, StashInvest in the US allows customers to make and control investments from their smartphone app.

Similarly, to Challenger banks, all these services are turning a boring, complicated or tedious process into a simple utility task.

Technology is dictating

Mobile is not the only technology that has emerged and helped to change the face of banking. AR, artificial intelligence, voice UI, smart assistants have all changed our expectations of how we interact with faulting services. Technologies such as Chatbots, which are dramatically redefining the customer services industry and products such as the Amazon Echo illustrate where traditional banking models are failing.

They’re not evolving. They’re sticking to the same models and are not changing their approach with the changing values of their customers. If a bank sells you a credit card, it differentiates its product by offering you sub-products such as air miles, cash back and rewards. Whereas, modern technologies are becoming invisible and are only focussing on improving the lives of customers.

Customer centricity is key

Physical banks are a thing of the past. They’re a need from an age where we lacked technology to manage our money how we wish. Their death won’t be immediate, but as the values of the general population aligns to those common within millennials, they will disappear.

Why are Millennials so important in this? Often thought of as the neglected demographic, they focus more on utility and experience than ownership. Whereas they don’t own as larger proportion of the world’s wealth – as older generations die and incumbents are born with the same expectations of Millennials, they will have a stronger and more shaping influence on the world of finance.

There has never been a better time for big banks and financial players to think about customer experience and value innovation.

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