Branch banking has evolved. Years ago, if you needed cash, you had to come into ‘The Branch’. You had no other choice. The only place you could get cash was from your local bank branch, and you had to get there during ‘bankers hours’, typically 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, Monday thru Friday. Over time, bankers slowly loosened their grip on those hours and opened one night during the week and eventually on Saturdays (usually in the morning, while you were trying to catch up on sleep).
Then along came the Automated Teller Machine, the venerable ‘ATM’. The ATM was billed as the ‘branch killer’. No longer would people have to come into the branch office to get cash. Citibank even built branches that were nothing more than rows of ATMs. For a while they even charged their customers a couple bucks if they wanted to talk to a teller! (Be careful, those days may come back!) The ATM never fulfilled its promise of being an automated TELLER; they were just cash dispensers. Hence, the bank branch survived to live another day.
Today, the bank branch is dying a slow death. Services that forced you into the branch are largely available online or over the phone (smart phone or not). ATM’s are becoming more intelligent. Many of the newer machines have check image capture technology that allows you to deposit a check into the machine and get immediate access to your funds just as if you were standing in front of the teller at the branch. But now you can make that deposit, or withdrawal, at any hour of the day or night – at your convenience (not the branch manager’s). Online capabilities are more feature-rich and useful today than ever before.
The evolution of the bank branch follows the life and death of Blockbuster Video. You may remember them. They started out by renting VHS and Beta videotapes, eventually transitioning to DVDs. Then ‘RedBox’ came onto the scene and made a visit to the video store unnecessary. This was their version of an ATM except it wasn’t controlled by Blockbuster. Eventually on-line streaming of videos and through-the-mail rentals (both now dominated by NetFlix) made significant inroads in the market. Blockbuster hung onto their old model – retail store-based rentals. They did make a brief detour into the online world, but it didn’t get too far. Eventually they closed the doors altogether because they didn’t change their business to meet the changing needs – and requirements- of their customers. Just like branch-based banking.