posted on 13 November 2016
from the Atlanta Fed
-- this post authored by Douglas A. King
Fall is my favorite time of the year. Football season cranks into high gear, pumpkins replace chocolate in my desserts, and excellent payment-related events take place with great published content. On the content front, this fall has not disappointed. I have recently read several excellent reports, including the FDIC's 2015 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.
Although the focus of the survey is on the unbanked and underbanked population, there are some interesting findings concerning banked households, including their methods used for accessing their accounts. After seeing these findings, I began pondering the question, why do I still visit a bank branch for my deposit account needs?
According to the FDIC survey, 75 percent of banked households use a bank teller to access their accounts. However, a teller is the primary or main access method for only 28 percent of banked households, suggesting that over 70 percent of households prefer to interact through a non-face-to-face channel. The other physical channel, the ATM, is the primary access method for only 21 percent of banked households. The FDIC found that online and mobile banking usage is lower than the physical channels; however, nearly 50 percent of banked households' primary method of access to their account is digital (online or mobile). So while a majority of banked households still visit a physical location to access their accounts, almost half of them prefer to access their account digitally.
As I think about my own banking practices, I visit physical banking locations less and less. I will drop in to make a check deposit, but only if I am running errands and a physical location just happens to fall on my route. Or sometimes my kids want a sucker and I know my local branch will come through. They have even provided my children with piggy banks during visits! I use mobile check deposit more often than not. I still visit ATMs, but those interactions are substantially fewer today thanks in large part to being able to obtain cash back via my debit card at a number of retailers.
So I will visit a branch for my deposit account needs if it is convenient for me while running errands or if my kids want candy or some other treat. And these two reasons aren't necessarily sustainable. I am running fewer errands as more of my shopping takes place in the digital world (and my phone is becoming more convenient for check depositing). And unfortunately, I am not getting any younger, which means my children are growing up, and as they do, suckers and piggy banks will more than likely not stir up as much excitement as they currently do.
As a traditionalist, my past thinking led me to believe that the demise of bank branches was overblown. However, my thinking has changed. The bank branch will not disappear overnight or completely in the long term, though indications are that the number of branches will decline. As I contemplate the results of the FDIC study coupled with observations from my own behavior, it becomes obvious to me that the physical importance from a deposit account perspective is being diminished in this digital age. I am not sure what the branch of the future will look like, but I feel confident in saying that tellers, and even ATMs, focusing on deposit accounts will not be primary reasons for consumers to visit. Why will you visit your local branch in the future?
About the Authors
Douglas A. King is a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed
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