With the rise of COVID-19 in 2020, many people stopped visiting banks in person altogether, leading to the closure of 9% of branches in developed markets in 2021 alone.
While it is hard to imagine a world without your local bank, mobile banking has remained popular well beyond the shelter-in-place mandates. With so much of what we do moving and remaining online, the future of the branches we love and trust seems grim – but is it really?
Let’s take a closer look at the top four reasons why you may want to put down your smartphone and negotiate your hard-earned money in person.
People trust banks because they are government-accredited institutions. Your bank has licenses and safeguards to protect your money, should you choose to hold it there. You can go there in person at any time to take out cash from an ATM, open a savings account, or dispute a charge on your account. So long as you arrive during opening hours on appropriate business days, there will be someone who can provide you with what you need, or at least point you in the right direction.
When the 2008 financial crisis hit, customers rushed to the in-person bank to resolve issues with Northern Rock in the UK, even though mobile banking existed and was an available option. Though the internet did not exist in the late 1920s, odds are that even if it had, banking clients would still have found themselves rushing to the physical buildings to find out where their money had gone when the stock market crashed.
We trust banks the same way we make sure our friend gets home safely or we hold the door open when someone else is coming into a building behind us – it is second nature.
Advice from a Human
While AI and search engines offer all the information presently available on a topic, this much information can overwhelm and prevent you from accessing the pieces you really need. Unlike Google or a thread on Reddit, a visit to your bank branch offers specialized knowledge from an expert on the subject.
With over 10 different types of personal loans and 28 mortgage variables available in the current market, it is easy to see why conferring with another human with insider knowledge is an invaluable resource. Their wisdom will save you time and research, which you can spend planning what color to paint the walls of your new home after you get approved.
Though banking online would seem to be more convenient than going into a branch, many have had the deeply frustrating experience of consulting with an AI customer service representative, resisting the urge to cry out, “A human, please! I would like to talk to a human!”
Working smarter does not always mean a better customer experience. While online banking has its moments of convenience, miscommunication occurs more readily.
Imagine if someone stole your credit card or gained access to your account: you would not want to be trying to explain yourself to an automated system when experiencing stress and panic. When it comes to your money, it can save you a headache to handle matters face to face.
A Phygital journey
We are seeing the rise of the phygital experience post-pandemic, defined as the merging of the physical and the digital worlds.
While the latter is fertile ground for all businesses right now, the hybrid experiences being generated by major retailers and department stores indicate that there’s something about walking into a store or a business that most of the human population still greatly enjoys.
Banks are leaning towards this style of marketing as well, and if you stay home and glued to your mobile banking account, you may miss out on the opportunity to enjoy some of these immersive digital-meets-physical experiences.