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Survey: 88 percent of people still favor an in-person banking experience

June 10, 2015
Read Time: 0 min

In late December, CNBC took a peek inside the bank branch of the future. The piece looks at one possibility – a faceless branch, where avatars take the place of tellers. CNBC said in the article, “Community-level banking, particularly from large institutions, will become more cost efficient and less personal.”

But is this what bank and credit union customers want?

Perhaps not. Even as technology moves banking into a more mobile experience in the more immediate future, a new survey indicates that most people still want the option to be able to walk into a branch of their bank or credit union if necessary. New research by CARAVAN Omnibus Surveys from ORC International says 88 percent of American adults feel they still need a physical branch location to go to for banking needs. When asked how that preference may change within five years, 84 percent of respondents still indicated that they would want to use a branch to do their banking.

why people go to physical branches compared to mobile functionality's importance infographicThe survey outlined the key reasons that such a large group still rely on the in-person experience, including the option of a walk-up teller in lobby (68 percent), an ATM (65 percent) and a drive-up window (51 percent). The ability to discuss special options with a banker was also important to 31 percent of those surveyed.

Perhaps no surprise in the survey’s findings was the generational preference for banking on the go. Eighty percent of the millennial respondents indicated that they rely on mobile or tablet apps that can serve their basic banking functions such as checking their balance. Generation X also noted the importance of these apps, with 68 percent of those in that age demographic using them. Baby boomers, however, see those types banking features as less important in their daily lives; less than half (45 percent) of boomers surveyed utilize them now.

Financial technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and many financial institutions, particularly those smaller ones without an extensive tech budget, could be at a loss to keep up. But, as this survey points out, most consumers aren’t looking for a major overhaul of their bank’s offerings. They like options when depositing a check – the option to walk into a branch, or to use an app to snap a photo with their smartphone to send it to their account.

Marina Stein, senior research analyst for ORC International commented, “As consumers continue to embrace digital technologies for simplifying daily tasks, the banking industry is being challenged to develop mobile banking apps that are faster, more secure and more contextual. Despite the continued growth of mobile use, the need for physical branches remains constant.”

The banks or credit unions that can achieve a balance of keeping up with tech their customers want and the personal experience a live teller can offer seem the best poised to succeed in this area.

While many of the tech improvements financial institutions are making are consumer-facing – such as apps and mobile wallet integrations – that’s not to discount the importance of the back-end tech. While a customer doesn’t see the inner workings of the bank or CU’s loan administration or ALLL calculation, using technology to make these processes more efficient and effective is actually critical to a positive customer experience.

To read more about the role of tech in banking, check out this post: “Tech decisions for your bank board.”

“The Future of Banking” infographic courtesy of ORC International. To see the entire infographic, click on the snapshot above.

About the Author


Raleigh, N.C.-based Sageworks, a leading provider of lending, credit risk, and portfolio risk software that enables banks and credit unions to efficiently grow and improve the borrower experience, was founded in 1998. Using its platform, Sageworks analyzed over 11.5 million loans, aggregated the corresponding loan data, and created the largest

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