More use of digital banking means when our customers do come to the branch, we have more time and ability to help them with more complex needs – like home loans – where a relationship and coaching are critical.
From what we saw in the past 12 months, only 8 per cent of our customers now rely solely on branches. That means more than 90 per cent are already using at least one self-service channel.
Meanwhile, there is no doubt self-service banking sits in the context of a broader societal shift – in the way we shop, interact with government, interact with services – even interact with each other. This is positive - in the sense that the help we are offering our customers will enable them not only to bank digitally but also help them embrace a broader digital future that will be key to ongoing access and inclusion.
However, we are acutely aware, when we close branches or remove parts of the assisted service offering, there is an intensification of concern because of that underlying anxiety around some parts of the community being “left behind”.
We often talk about the need for “education” – across not just banking but in diverse parts of our life including privacy, health, relationships – but in our case we accept we should not be “teaching” our customers.
We need to focus on their preferences – the balance is in understanding the difference between familiar habit and what is actually wanted. Our customers want help with more complex needs, they don’t necessarily want to come into a branch for help with the ‘small stuff’.
This much deeper process of education requires a much broader based mobilisation. There are plenty of examples – for example in Northern Europe – where this is being embraced readily by government, the private sector and the community.
We do need to be realistic about how banking is evolving and accept that evolution is not being driven primarily by banks but rather by customer preferences. If banks don’t satisfy a financial service preference, our increasingly digital world means some other institution will – be it Amazon, a supermarket, a “neobank” or even an airline offering credit cards and health insurance in partnership with other institutions.
These competitive offerings are exclusively digital. Moreover, in the interest of a more efficient and lower risk economy, governments and regulators are also fuelling the push to digital and self-service banking and other services.
In Australia for example, where the use of cash and cheques remain a key driver of assisted service in banks, it is likely cheque usage will be more actively discouraged.
As this evolution becomes more rapid, we have an obligation – and a self-interest – in ensuring our customers are not left behind. That’s why we have several programs to help customers and to support them in making the transition to digital banking. But we are heartened by the data showing those we thought might be most affected are far more advanced than we assumed.