I was written to by my bank this week.
The letter read;
‘Your bank branch is closing.
As part of a review of our branches based in where our customers are and where it is most useful to provide our banking services in the area, we have taken the decision to close your branch.
We don’t undertake closures lightly, and we’re sorry if this is a branch that you found convenient to use in the past’
Its a letter written by a committee. Without any explanation really as to the forces at work on the banking sector and what their business issues might be.
Perhaps the letter should have read;
You have changed.
You want banking whenever and wherever you are.
You don’t need a building for this any more for the most part.
This is a real challenge to us.
Its making our property portfolio obsolete.
Because many of you are now digital customers.
You don’t come and see us as much as you used to.
We won’t lie, this change is good for our business.
These old Georgian and Victorian buildings are expensive to heat and maintain.
And you might have noticed that we haven’t done much to change them in a long time.
Our cardboard cut-outs and poster campaigns look a bit cheap in the age of the web.
Like we are ‘camping out’ in the grand buildings of our past.
The truth is, that our business and your lives move much faster than our buildings and even our cardboard can cope with.
Because even putting a poster in each branch, co-ordinated to launch on the same day costs serious money.
So we’d like to get back into the banking business again, not the property business.
Our buildings are probably the most frustrating part of our activities.
Hard to streamline. Hard to change. Built for a different age.
Technology is effecting how we use our buildings.
Or rather its effecting how you use our buildings.
So we are looking forward to another age of retail banking.
Here’s what we are puzzling over;
More of the heavy lifting of how you manage your finances is done over the web.
But we know not all of you are comfortable with the digital age of finance.
And we don’t assume we can convince all of you the web will be the only way in the future.
So something tells us we still need a space where we can have a face to face with you just like in the old days.
Particularly if you struggle with computers and getting around.
Or if you run a business.
We’d like to invest more in the spaces we have left, because even the digital generation will come and see us if we give them something to be a part of.
Creating somewhere people actually want to come and spend time.
We remember at some point in the past, that our best branches had their own character, that came from the people that used them.
They were not homogeneous and lifeless. They had a degree of variation.
So we’d like to get back to some of this.
In the future we will make less from our products because we are now much more regulated than we used to be.
So retail banking will have to go through a revolution.
This is probably a good thing.
So we’ll be forced to spend less on our banks, but where we do spend, we’ll build something that will show our new intentions.
We’d like to become the sort of role model a bank should be.
Honest, sensible, open, approachable, careful.
Well integrated into your life.
Your Changing Bank.
PS. We like what these guys are doing, and can’t imagine why we couldn’t do this too;
Thanks to Umpqua Bank and Miller Hull for showing us there is another way.