06Jun

When the pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses across much of the world, one of the sectors that adapted quickly was finance.

In a detailed forward-looking article, Deloitte applauded banking’s response calling it “notable… Banks effectively deployed technology and demonstrated unprecedented agility and resilience.” Looking ahead, the report says now is the time for the industry to institutionalize what it learned about engaging customers, digital transformation, finance and talent, among others.

While COVID impacted so many areas of the global economy and work, perhaps the most highly visible is in workforce management.

“Banking leaders around the world have faced an array of challenges on the talent front, from shifting to a remote, distributed workforce to finding ways to keep employees engaged and productivity high,” says the report written by two of Deloitte’s most senior leaders in its Banking & Capital Markets practice: Mark Shilling, a vice chairman, and Anna Celbner, vice chairman of Deloitte UK.

A majority of banks adopted flexible schedules and focused on employee safety and well-being. However, the economic fallout also led many to implement layoffs, furloughs and voluntary time off. Further “hard decisions on optimal talent models” may need to be made in 2021, the writers acknowledge.

But as uncertainties continue, “Bank leaders should continue to proactively recognize employee concerns, be sensitive to their personal/family needs, and prioritize physical and psychological health efforts that can also help maintain employee productivity.”

To improve retention and engage workers, especially the many that work, and may continue to work remotely, banks must “transform their talent strategies to enable employees to learn better, faster, and more frequently.”

Teaming needs to change to “facilitate flexible, self-organizing teams that come together for a common purpose,” the authors write. “Boosting productivity, creativity, and collaboration should be the ultimate goals.”

The lengthy report addresses multiple other areas of banking operations, suggesting how the industry can build on the lessons of the last year, as well as proposing ways to manage the uncertainties ahead. Resilience, a recurring theme throughout the article, is the overall message.

Acknowledging that, “Uncertainty about the effects of the pandemic will likely remain for the foreseeable future,” Shilling and Celbner, say “This should not prevent bank leaders from reimagining the future and making bold bets.

“They should institutionalize the lessons from the pandemic and build a new playbook by strengthening resilience now and accelerating the transformation in the post-pandemic world.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

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Jun 6, 2023

Bank Branches, Threatened But Surviving

Thought to be endangered by the twin threats of mobile banking and the COVID-19 pandemic, bank branches it turns out, still have plenty of life left.

The Financial Brand reports that an FDIC report released at the end of September showed a net decline of 1,463 bank branches between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. That’s about 12% higher than last year, but not the tsunami some analysts were predicting. Banks closed 2,642 branches while opening 1,179.

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Zeroing in on just the pandemic months from March through August this year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency received notice of 893 branch closings. For the same period in 2019, 967 notifications were submitted.

However, the trend is clearly headed down, if slowly. Over the last 10 years, the banking sector averaged 1,861 closures and 982 new branch openings annually. In 2011 there were about 90,000 bank branches. As of the end of June 2020, there were just over 80,000.

Because of regulatory requirements, “It’s hard to close a branch,” Richard Walker of Deloitte Consulting told Forbes. But that’s not the only reason, he added, “Banks still view branches as a critical part of their footprint.”

So do consumers, including those who have embraced mobile banking for the first time during the COVID lockdown. Research by the Simon-Kucher & Partners consulting firm reported in the ABA’s BankingJournal found 54% of customers would open an account only at a branch. A majority would visit a branch to open a business account and 69% said they’d go to a branch for a mortgage, despite the availability of online mortgage lenders.

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That survey also found customers willing to walk or drive longer distances to do business in a bank branch.

Still, 42% of customers say even after business returns to normal they expect they won’t be visiting branches as much.

Mindful of the trend toward online banking and the need to compete with the fintechs, bank executives are looking to transform branches as places that are mostly transactional to focus more on meeting customer financial needs. “I think there’s a goal for branches turning into more advice centers than transaction centers as they were in the past,” Bruce Van Saun, chair and CEO of Citizens Financial Group told Forbes.

That might just be a winning formula. In another, recent Simon-Kucher & Partners survey, consumers said a bank’s reputation, insured accounts and the bonus offered for opening an account are their top three reasons for choosing a bank. But next are “features that make saving engaging and fun” and how the bank values their loyalty.

Photo by Floriane Vita on Unsplash

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