"Some banks are becoming innovative companies that deliver technology faster," said Mike Baxter, head of Bain & Companies Americas Financial Services practice. "Other banks are stuck in the mud."
Granted, some innovations are more sizzle than real meat. Interactive banking walls lack privacy, and robot greeters are usually just clever marketing gimmicks. But banks are fighting for customers, say experts, and they want to be more attractive while cutting costs. As banks begin to rethink the gadgets they will offer, some have already done away with iPads for customer transactions and the touchscreen desks they recently adopted.
Instead, banks will become community hubs, said Tim Greenhalgh, chief creative officer at the global design firm FITCH. "Society needs more community," he added. "Starbucks isn't enough. Why can't a bank be more like an art gallery or media space?" Old bank design that includes a cup of coffee is dead, he said. "People want a bank that feels more like a retailer."
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These retooled branches will survive, while other branches fade out. According to a Jones Lang LaSalle study, up to 50 percent of U.S. bank branches will be obsolete by 2020. "Everything can't be automated," Baxter said. "So a bank might put a café in a branch to start conversations about banking needs." For example, BNP Paribas' flagship branch, near the Paris Opera, has a futuristic lounge filled with retro furniture, interactive walls and a plant wall.
Banks may soon pop up in more small convenience stores and health-care centers. And they probably won't just dispense cash. "In 15 years you'll go to a bank because you have banking issues," said Paul Schaus, president of CCG Catalyst Consulting Group. "Technology will allow people to do their own banking by themselves, but people will head to banks to report problems or get loans."
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