Bank Branch Innovation Like Never Before: 5 Brands Redefining Tradition

Sources like CNBC and The Telegraph predict that the retail bank branch will die within the next decade. Research, however, suggests this will fail to become a reality. We can’t help but agree. In fact, the market is heading towards bank branch innovation unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

As an industry slated to experience more disruption in the next 10 years than the last few centuries, there’s no denying that banking is radically changing. Traditional vendors must now compete alongside newer digital-only banks like Ally in the U.S., Tandem in the U.K., and Digibank in India. Today, nearly 30% of millennials would consider doing business with a digital, branchless bank. By 2020, it’s expected that over half of financial transactions in Europe will be made through fintech companies, a shift that’s shaping tech-driven directives like PSD2.

It’s true that mobile, social and digital capabilities have changed the game, but they won’t put an end to branch banking. In fact, 88% of customers still want the option of a face to face discussion about their banking needs, and expect that need to remain the same five years from now. When evaluating an institution for a loan, for example, 64% of customers prefer speaking to someone in person or over the phone. Research shows that even most millennials will be using branches at least two years from now.

There’s no denying that banking is evolving. However, this doesn’t signify the end of the branch. Instead, it calls for unparalleled bank branch innovation.

Not Dead, Just Different

If anything, the bank branch has been ushered into a new era of seemingly limitless possibilities. One that combines digital innovation with the reliability of a traditional branch experience. One that several key players are already capitalizing on.

Consider Bank of America’s new ATM Teller Assist, a next-gen offering that “combines the technology and convenience of an ATM with the human touch of a teller.” In the Middle East, Emirates NBD is investing hundreds of millions into digital innovation to open the first digital branch in the region targeted to millennials. In Italy, banks like CheBanca! (self-described as “the human digital bank”) manage over half a million customers with only a few dozen branches.

5 Brands to Study

The role of the branch is changing. New capabilities are being built. New expectations are emerging. So, what will this new model look like? Consider these five brands that are redefining the traditional branch concept:

    1. JPMorgan Chase’s Card-less Transactions
      Chase customers use ATMs for 90% of withdrawals and 60% of deposits, yet still primarily cash checks with tellers. As such, the brand is evolving to streamline self-service and deliver greater bank branch innovation. For example, the company has developed new ATM machines that can conduct card-less transactions using smartphone PIN codes. The technology has been activated in four test cities including Miami and San Francisco, with 6,000 more already upgraded and ready to go. In 2012, the company also debuted tablet-esque eATMs in branches across the U.S. Unlike traditional ATMs, the machines let users withdraw $1 and $5 bills and deliver up to $3,000 in cash.
    2. Suncorp’s New “Concept Stores”
      Under the leadership of new CEO Michael Cameron, Suncorp, Australia’s fifth biggest lender is looking to evolve from traditional retail branches to one-stop shops for financial services. Described as concept stores, these new developments draw influences from top global retailers in both physical design and customer approach. One branch location in Sydney, for example, has no teller desks or fixed machines but rather staff using laptops to work over Wi-Fi. These new stores will also emphasize zones that target specific financial activities (i.e., applying for loans, refinancing, and wealth management).
    3. Bank Muscat Integrates for Contextualized Offers
      Bank Muscat, the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate of Oman, is implementing a strategy for complete bank branch innovation. Key service roles are more customer focused, and alternative channels improve engagement. Touch screens in branches provide both product information and the ability to directly manage accounts online. The bank also leveraged partnerships with major Omani brands such as Oman Air and telecommunications company Omantel to provide added value through contextualized offers linked to its financial products.
    4. Nationwide’s Video Enablement
      In response to a drastic drop in physical bank branches across Britain, Nationwide Building Society has been eyeing video to differentiate its branch experiences. As of last year, the financial institution has equipped 400 of its branches across the U.K. with face-to-face collaboration capabilities. For example, using HD video conferencing and screen sharing, customers can remotely complete the full, end-to-end sales application process with on-site specialists.


      Executives claim this new model—debuted in 2013 as the first deployment of its kind in Europe—is already 30% more productive than the company’s previous decentralized model. Three years later, an impressive 99% of customers rate the bank’s video service as “excellent.”

    5. Bank of China’s Data-driven Strategy
      As part of its first-ever smart branch, debuted in 2014, the Bank of China offers a sales area where customers can learn about products and services through various mobile, social and digital channels. The provider is also working to more strategically leverage big data analytics. By gaining insight into the real-time flow of customers in surrounding branches, the bank can work to identify problem hot spots that affect nearby unoccupied ones. In this way, it seems the bank is ahead of the curve: when asked which areas will require the most significant effort over the next five years, the majority (54%) of banking executives said, “enhancing customer data collection.”

    Bank branches will remain for as long as customers want them, but that doesn’t mean providers can rest on their laurels. Strategies for improvement may vary, but the cost and operational benefits of bank branch innovation are clear. In fact, as part of a complete digital transformation, branch improvements can increase banks’ revenue by up to 55% and cut costs by up to 30% by 2020. Now that’s something we can get on board with.

    IDC’s ebook “Remaking the Branch in the Era of Digital Banking” provides a deeper understanding of the branch in today’s era of digital banking. To plan your own bank branch innovation, dig deeper into the current state of the market and available solutions, including Avaya Solutions for Financial Services.

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Kari’s Law: An Emotional Journey Leads to a Bittersweet Ending

Our long journey leading up to the presidential signing of Kari’s Law began well before the precious life of Kari Hunt tragically ended on Dec. 1, 2013. (Learn about Kari’s story.)

For me, it actually began in the spring of 2013 when I noticed a sign on my hotel door, which read: “In case of an emergency, dial 0 for the operator.” I remember thinking, “The operator isn’t trained to handle an emergency. I should be able to dial 9-1-1 from my room phone.”

Sadly, this occurrence wasn’t an anomaly. I found it to be a common bad practice adopted by too many hotels across the United States.

There’s no doubt their intentions were good. Hotels were looking to be proactive, and they wanted to expedite not delay emergency response times. To make matters worse, direct access to 9-1-1 from Multi Line Telephone System (MLTS) was flawed because guests couldn’t dial 9-1-1 directly. They needed to dial an extra 9 just to get an outside line. That proved to be a fatal flaw in Kari’s case because her 9-year-old daughter couldn’t get through to 9-1-1. MLTS legislation also didn’t exist or, if it did, it was limited to a handful of states, and much of that dealt with the reporting location. It didn’t address the issue of access and notification.

Throughout the year, I used social media to increase awareness and drive meaningful change. I spoke at conferences and even began a podcast series dedicated to this very topic.

Then one day in December 2013, everything changed. My Google Alerts for 9-1-1 came up with a petition that was raised by Hank Hunt after his daughter Kari was brutally murdered in her hotel room.

I reached out to Hank on Facebook and offered to help him in his cause. Having an innovative tech leader like Avaya backing me increased Hank’s confidence in my ability to help him bring about the changes he sought.

My previous experience immediately proved useful, and we were able to go straight to the top at the FCC. (I had served on the Emergency Access Advisory Committee under Chairman Julius Genechowski, who had just turned the agency over to Chairman Tom Wheeler. Talk about timing!)

Following a number of tweets and letters, including an Open Letter to the FCC Chairman Wheeler, we received a call from Commissioner Ajit Pai’s office and a meeting was scheduled for Jan. 10, 2014. That meeting turned into a 45-minute discussion on the issues, the fix, and the challenges we faced.

Over the next several months, Hank and I garnered the interest of legislators in cities and states across the country: Suffolk County in Long Island, the state of Illinois, Maryland, et al.

In Texas, Avaya participated in hearings, and offered our unique expertise. We introduced the idea of a “Waiver Clause,” which stated that a business could obtain an exemption if they showed financial hardship. With the exemption was the requirement to register the make and model number of the system. This uncovered many systems that were actually capable of being compliant, and eased the adoption of the new law.

More states followed embraced the legislation—it was a full-on domino effect—except at the federal level where every attempt to bring a bill to life stalled. But then in 2018, that changed too.

After an all-night session ending on Feb. 9 on what would have been Kari’s 36th birthday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate amendment of H.R. 582, and it was officially on the way to the president of the U.S. for signature.

We quietly celebrated, knowing Kari’s murder would not be in vain.

The cherry on the cake was being invited by Hank, Kari’s father, to witness the president sign the bill into law on Feb. 16, 2018. I was both humbled and honored, and invited my former colleague Avaya Sales Engineer Dan Wilson to enjoy the moment with us. Dan had worked tirelessly on this legislation, clocking 12 miles of walking in the Maryland House and Senate.

The West Wing is everything you’d imagine: intimidating, wonderful and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was a pleasure to not only stand beside Hank and witness the signing, but to also be in the company of people who supported our endeavor since day one: Ajit Pai, my good friend and now Chairman of the FCC, Congressman Louie Gohmert who introduced the bill, as well as other Congressional reps with interest in public safety. After reading a prepared statement, President Trump uncapped the ceremonial pen and placed it on the paper. As it started to move, we were overcome with emotion. To think, 50 years to the day, and quite nearly the minute, following the first ever 9-1-1 call, Kari’s Law had become the “Law of the Land.”

Transforming Online Meetings for Team Collaboration

I find it interesting how companies choose to measure team collaboration. Most use surveys, some productivity data, and others standard review processes. Yet team collaboration is about so much more than all of this. If you ask us, it’s about putting people first.

We mean this quite literally. It’s important to provide employees with a suite of face-to-face collaboration capabilities that enable dynamic, real-time team collaboration. Communication staples like voice and chat are surely important, along with the endless other tools teams use to connect and share information. Meeting via video, however, is arguably the best way to collaborate, build relationships, create momentum and build morale. Face-to-face collaboration may not always be needed, but companies will want to make sure they have the best tools in place for when it is.

When done right, online meetings enhance team collaboration in several ways. Consider the most basic of them all: a good part of communication is non-verbal. Being able to observe team members’ body language can help prevent miscommunication and connect across languages and cultures. The technology has also evolved to the point where teams can flexibly share data, documents and other project details via screen sharing or virtual whiteboards. All the while, there’s the opportunity to initiate private chat sessions between team members to discuss simultaneously.

The bottom line: online meetings enable authentic human interaction that delivers real value, time and cost savings, and better business outcomes.

Now, imagine being able to quickly implement an easy-to-use, cost-effective service that skips the capital investment and technical hassle of a traditional video solution. This is exactly what Avaya Equinox Meetings Online offers: a cloud-delivered application that allows users—both employees and outside contacts—to connect with their browsers (no plug-ins required) or mobile apps to effortlessly initiate and/or participate in online meetings. The service places priority back on people, which is where it belongs. Simple as that.

Don’t believe us? Read Nemertes Q4 2017 Enterprise Business Value Matrix for Unified Communications and Collaboration to see what they had to say. If you like what you see, or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our team for more information via our webchat.

The Easy Button for IoT

I am sure that I don’t have to tell you how the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing our world. Stop by any electronics retailer and you will find smart TVs, smart lights, smart refrigerators, and smart thermostats. Open up the brochure for a new car and you will find more space dedicated to intelligent sensors than horsepower. Tour a modern manufacturing plant and you will quickly discover that nearly every machine used in production has been equipped with an IP address. From the consumer to the enterprise, IoT is the driving force of innovation.

Of course, there is a dark side to this revolutionary technology: It’s not all that easy. As a consumer, it’s not a big deal to have one smart dryer that sends a text message when your clothes are dry. It’s also pretty simple to have your refrigerator email you a photo of its contents. In these cases, it’s just you and your machine.

However, what if you had a thousand dryers and ten thousand refrigerators. Let’s take it further. What if you were American Airlines and your fleet of airplanes had five hundred thousand different sensors reporting information every second. Now, imagine that some devices reported data using Bluetooth while others used Zigbee, WiMAX, LTE, WiFi, and NFC. Want to make it even more challenging? These different sensors report data reading using SOAP, REST, WebSockets, and a myriad of proprietary protocols. It quickly becomes an engineering nightmare to collect, store, and take the appropriate actions on this constant stream of data.

One Bite at a Time

Question. How do you eat an elephant? Answer. One bite at a time.

As with an elephant, the best way to conquer the IoT problem is to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Instead of trying to directly deal with all those different sensors and their unique forms of communication, have those sensors talk to gateways that understand multiple IoT dialects. Those gateways could then normalize the data before sending it off to a central cloud repository. Next, wrap the IoT cloud with web services that allow for a consistent and uniform way to access IoT data. Finally, use those web services to create a suite of applications for data visualization, event processing, analytics, etc.

Now, instead of being inundated with terabytes of data that may or may not be important, you only see what you need to see and only when you need to see it. You also have a scalable platform that allows you to add new sensors without having to constantly redesign and redeploy your business applications.

At Arrow Systems Integration (ASI), an Avaya A.I.Connect partner, we call this distributed architecture of sensors, gateways, and cloud services Arrow Connect™.

Arrow Connect

Arrow Connect is a software architecture that connects any device over any protocol to any cloud. Designed and developed by Arrow with security, scale, flexibility, device management, multi-tenancy, hierarchy, open APIs, and extensibility as its core principles, Arrow Connect is helping customers across multiple industries bring their products to market faster.

The Arrow Connect software development kit (SDK) helps enterprises leverage the full capabilities of any device while an extensible software gateway allows developers to add support for protocols and sensors not currently supported by Arrow Connect.

The Arrow Connect cloud platform enables secure provisioning and management of all its devices. It runs on multiple public cloud platforms and seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson Bluemix/Softlayer, Amazon Web Services, and private data center solutions.

Breeze and Zang Workflows

While support for RESTful web services is essential to being an open and secure cloud solution, this comes with a price and that price is complexity. Despite being an open standard understood by most software developers, the fact that you must be a developer to use web services confines them to a very select group of people.

In our quest to find every possible way to simplify IoT, ASI has partnered with Avaya to add support for Arrow Connect IoT devices, sensors, and gateways into Avaya Breeze and the Zang Workflow Designer. With both of these platforms, access to IoT data and Arrow Connect services becomes as simple as drag and drop and non-developers can create powerful IoT solutions in a matter of minutes. Better still, this simplification does not come at the cost of accuracy, reliability, speed, security, or scalability. The visual tasks embedded in these workflow tools employ the same Arrow Connect web services a skilled software developer would use. The difference is that there is no need to learn Java, .Net, Python, or any other programming language.


The Easy Button for IoT

With integrated workflow technology, you can quickly turn an idea on a whiteboard into a fully functional and easily deployable solution.

Next Steps

McKinsey recently said that “Any business that fails to invest heavily in the IoT in the next 10 years is unlikely to be able to remain competitive.” While these may seem like strong words, industry after industry has taken them to heart and the IoT revolution is everywhere. As I stated at the beginning of this article, IoT is becoming pervasive for both consumers and businesses.

The simplification, scalability, and security of IoT offered by Avaya and Arrow Systems Integration helps an enterprise to create the solutions it needs to enhance its business, grow its customer base, and stay competitive.

Andrew Prokop is the Director of Emerging Technologies at Arrow Systems Integration. Andrew is an active blogger and his widely-read blog, SIP Adventures, discusses every imaginable topic in the world of unified communications. Follow Andrew on Twitter at @ajprokop, and read his blog, SIP Adventures.