Bank to the future: Experts look ahead to 2026
Just what will bank branches look like 10 years down the line? They’ll look smaller, for starters – and feature self-service machines to work transactions that free up staff. That way, bank employees can give more financial advice to customers on even basic literacy topics. But to abuse a cliché, the bucks will hardly stop there.
Those machines will be stocked full of cool features – from 3D avatars to artificial intelligence – designed to lure customers in, and draw them away from competitors.
We asked bankers, industry experts and solution providers to give us their thoughts, as seven others did for BAI’s October executive report, “Evolution of the Branch.” So what’s possibly in store? You don’t even have to open an account to find out.
Drawing the line on teller lines
With increasing numbers of ATMs and remote tellers, teller lines will be dramatically reduced if not eliminated, particularly if account-opening procedures can be adequately fulfilled remotely. But branch locations with meeting space will continue to be integral to banking, as having a place to meet and conduct business is necessary to communicate about banking services – and to be compliant with regulations requiring banks to know their customer.
From avatars and kiosks to traditional stalwarts
Roughly 30 percent of branches will not only have kiosks and video machines, but user-friendly versions of virtual reality capable machines where customers can get advice, feeling like they are interacting with a human in 3D. Some won’t be staffed by humans; machines will enable customers to perform transactions and also apply for loans, or input the necessary documents to complete loan applications. Customers at these kiosks could talk with bankers offsite, or interact with a 3D avatar. Another 30 percent might be scaled down, branches located within small storefronts and kiosks inside shopping malls. The remaining 40 percent will likely be traditional branches, but in alternate formats. One format would be largely advisory targeted at affluent customers, with much more personal human-to-human interaction. There will also be traditional branches located in heavy foot traffic locations.
To boldly go where no bank has gone before
The branch of the future will be akin to the USS Enterprise consoles from “Star Trek,” where data based on intelligence and self-learning capabilities will be delivered automatically on a consistent basis. Customers will be flooded with data and in-depth analytics conducted by robotic advisors, which will take into account historical facts and past trends and ultimately assist in helping individuals make smarter investments. Holograms are already adopted by some banks to provide customers with a virtual advisor; a trend that will only increase in the future.
Intelligent banking, with reservations
In a decade, banking customers will want to pre-arrange branch interactions and banks will be in a position to enable this scheduling. This could be at standard bank location, or even a small location with only a video connection to a personal banker. At the same time, most banks will maintain larger branch footprints that will showcase their products and technology, becoming a magnet for new customer acquisition. In these larger branches, we can expect to see greeters with the ability to determine a customer’s identity using intelligent device-based beacon capabilities.
Customers coming and going
We’ll continue to see a reduction in people coming to branches to get help with transactions and opening accounts, while seeing an increase in people coming to branches for advice and financial coaching sessions. Therefore, there will be a more proactive versus reactive approach by the bank to generate foot traffic. And with the advent of mobile tools and the ability to work anywhere, bankers will become much more flexible in how they meet their customers’ demands. They’ll be able to meet their clients at coffee shops, their homes, their places of business and over video.
Speedy bankers get heads up, in the cloud
Services only offered at the branch will also be available anywhere via cloud-based solutions. This will enable bankers to get out into the community to build relationships, advise clients and close more deals. Processes such as getting a loan will actually become more transparent, faster and seamless across channels. Speed is also going to be a key attribute to banks in the future. One of the ways we’ll likely see this is in continued innovations around faster identification of customers – combined with workflows that can take the information and move the process along more efficiently.
The human side of high-tech branches
Technologies and programs will give bank employees better, faster information, and help them deliver superior face-to-face sales and service experiences to customers. That will be more important than ever. Meanwhile, branches will continue to have paramount importance for new account openings, loan production, problem resolution and small business customers. There may be uncertainty about exactly what the branch of the future will look like. But there is no uncertainty that branches will play an important role long into our futures.
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades experience writing about banking and financial services topics.