Make The Most Of Branch Tech And People

How financial institutions are getting ready to respond to new needs.

Consumers visit branches for two reasons above all else: its people and its technology.

The second day of Future Branches focused on how financial institutions can make the most of both.

3 Ways To Get Your Employees Ready To Respond To New Customer Needs

The Branch of the Future may be defined by its technological power, and rightly so.

According to numbers presented by Dena Roten, managing director of retail banking at Citibank, the next generation of consumer is tech-focused to the point where they question the need for banks entirely. 33% of millennials believe banks are not needed, she says, and 73% are more excited about new financial offerings from technology companies than traditional financial service providers.

But while it makes sense to boost tech-offerings to attract and simplify finance for younger generations, there’s a larger issue at play, Roten says: relevance. When this new generation does not see a need for financial institutions, what’s a financial institution to do? Or as Roten asks, How do we preserve and strengthen our role as a relevant partner for today and tomorrow? ContentMiddleAd

To find out, Citibank started by asking its own customers what were the primary decision making factors when choosing the bank. Here’s what they said, per Roten:

  • 94%: Knowledgeable staff
  • 92%: Customer service
  • 89%: Branch locations
  • 86%: Online and digital capabilities
  • 79%: Advice and guidance

For Citibank, the takeaway was obvious.

It’s about people, Roten says. The depth and quality of the experience the customer has when they go in and visit their branch.

Today, however, when financial institutions talk strategy for branch employees they’re usually concerned with optimization reducing FTEs, Roten says rather than spending time and energy to deepen and ready the employees who remain. What financial institutions should be asking, rather, is how do they get employees ready to respond to a new set of consumers and consumer needs?

Citibank accomplishes this in three ways.


Roten asks managers to consider the mental state employees must be in. They’ve seen teammates let go and this has created a sense of anxiety about their own futures. To combat that, Roten says, institutions must articulate the new jobs becoming available like the universal banker position, for example as well as walk them through the various career tracks the institution offers and calibrate their competencies for future long-term goals.


As employees set long-term goals, the institution must then create the capacity for employees to learn. Citibank reserves 12 hours per month for universal teller training, and twice that for branch managers. The bank has also created a series of video modules in which actual branch employees role-play various in-branch scenarios. In addition, these modules are gamified, so employees can earn badges after completing certain modules.


But for as much as Citibank wants to help its employees develop hard and soft skills, the bank doesn’t know how it’s education efforts are working or not without asking. To do just that, Citibank’s human resources team created a schedule of events and communications to measure employee pulse. These include town halls where information is presented to employees and virtual blogs where employees like Roten answer questions submitted by staff.

So far, Roten has seen positive results. According to her, the bank has seen a 300 bps increase in employee engagement, a 20% improvement in personal banker retention, an 89% increase in deposits per branch, and the Best Bank Award from Kiplinger’s.

Picking The Right Automation To Fit Your Branch

Today, the ATM is a given. Every financial institution has one and every consumer know how to use one. In fact, it just recently celebrated its 50th birthday.

But as more and more banks and credit unions adopt interactive teller machines and self-service kiosks, what’s next for the old stalwart? And does your credit union even need more advanced technology?

Four years ago, BBVA Compass adopted ITMs across its Spanish branch footprint and in the drive-ups of its American ones. The investment was significant and the bank did not Beta test. The rollout was the rollout. The bank did it live.

It did not work. The vast majority of the bank’s customers used the ITMs as ATMs, opting not to talk to a live agent. And because the bank runs a universal banker model, it felt its branch operations were already efficient.

We didn’t have inefficiencies or idle times to begin with, says Andres Cueto, senior vice president of ATM channel and branch strategy & design at the bank. We saw gains in training and employee morale, but we really did this to support the technology.

So as of November 2017, all the bank’s ITMs were reconverted to ATMs.

The lessons here are obvious, Cueto says.

Manage your technology to the benefit of your customers, he says. Really listen to your customer before you decide to deploy it at full-scale.

BBVA Compass learned its lesson the hard (and expensive way), but Cueto found even greater insight in this technological change. Might the role of the ITM or self-service kiosk be less important than initially thought?

If these technologies are so powerful as to allow customers and members to conduct complex financial transactions over video, why do they need to drive somewhere to use them?

I’d rather do it at home, he says.

And this adoption of in-home technology will affect ATMs, too. Most of the services an ATM provides can now occur on a smartphone, whether it’s a live balance inquiry or money transfer. The only thing our phones can’t do (yet) is accept and dispense cash. So, while Cueto does see a bright future for the ATM, its purpose will revert to its original intention. That is, as long as consumers use cash.

But Cueto’s not ready to make that assumption.

Use of cash has doubled since the iPhone came out, he says.

December 7, 2017

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