Of zeroes, ones,
bricks, and mortar

Matt Wilcox Pro

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A few weeks ago, The Financial Brand published my article, “Digital is hot, but don’t close branches yet.” It seems I’m not the only one who thinks brick and mortar still provide value. “Branches still matter a lot,” says Chase CFO Marianne Lake Dimon, quoted in a recent Bank Innovation article by Philip Ryan, senior editor. Ryan adds—not, I’d say, without irony:

“The mobile growth at Chase comes despite CEO Jamie Dimon’s professed fondness for bank branches and their centrality to banking.”

Hold on. Despiteor partly due to?

Chase is obviously doing a number of things right. Marketing successes tend to emerge from a convergence of factors, so while it may be a mistake to give exclusive credit to physical branches populated by real humans, their value is not to be overlooked. As I wrote in the above-referenced article, Fiserv’s most recent Expectations and Experiences survey found digital banking devotees continue to value branches, even as their use of them diminishes:

Though the number of people who actually walk into a bank lobby may be shrinking – 54% of consumers said they visited a branch in the month of the survey, down from 61% at this time last year – the 39% who prefer live bodies can’t be ignored. Moreover, consistent with other surveys, the majority of consumers (60%) named “branch location” as a determining factor in their choice of primary financial institution.

That branches matter comes as no surprise to many. Earlier this year, The Financial Brand’s president, CEO, and publisher Jeffry Pilcher quoted a roster of industry leaders speaking to the issue. You can read all of the comments in their entirety by clicking here (which I recommend), so I’ll content myself by excerpting just one. It’s from Finsia’s Marion Williams:

“When consumers want advice or discussion, branches remain as relevant as ever. As long as personal service and relationships remain important, bankers and their customers will likely continue to do business face-to-face.”

Adoption of digital services enjoys geometric growth industry-wide, but adoption at Chase outstrips its nearest competitors Bank of America and Wells Fargo by a wide margin. Which is saying something: Bank of America and Wells Fargo are doing quite well themselves, thank you very much.

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