Virtual assistance to the rescue of the traditional bank branch?
The virtual bank branch, capable of taking advantage of new technologies such as remote client verification, has been increasingly popular with the financial sector. But does it necessarily mean that the virtual branch is about to make the traditional one obsolete? Hardly! It is when they are used simultaneously that they prove most beneficial for both banks and their clients. Find out more about this unique synergy.
Even quite a few years ago, according to the Role of Video in Transforming Retail Banking and Wealth Management report by Cisco, as many as 44 percent of American bank customers expressed their interest in the possibility of holding a video conversation with a bank advisor on the premises of a physical bank branch. About 60 percent would be inclined to move their assets to a bank that offers such functionalities. The past few months saw this trend become even more clear.
The financial sector is well-aware of the attitude change of their customers. The consensus is that virtual banking is bound to make an impact in one way or another. What’s more surprising is the increasingly popular opinion that the virtual and traditional branches are best used in tandem and their interactions can only be beneficial for both banks and customers.
In order to understand this better, let’s start by answering another question.
What is really the virtual bank branch?
Banks have always been using various ways to interact with their customers remotely (call center, mobile apps, online banking etc.). As opposed to those methods, the virtual bank branch provides customers with all or nearly all of the functionalities of the traditional physical branch. What it means for the customer is access to everything the bank offers, including remote verification, video-enabled conversation with the bank advisor and the ability to sign a deal, without ever setting their foot inside a bank.
The virtual bank branch is available at any moment and in a variety of places (on numerous devices, systems as well as through integration with other channels such as Facebook Messenger). Its routing module gives it the ability to connect the customer with the most suitable advisor. Advanced collaborative capabilities (including co-browsing and screen-sharing) make it just as easy for the advisor to interact with the customer as it would be during a face-to-face meeting. As a result, the customer feels more informed and taken care of and is more likely to convert.
Virtual bank branch as part of the physical one – is it a good idea?
The idea of the virtual bank branch is already becoming a reality and the number of customers attending physical locations is gradually decreasing. However, the last group is still more than sizable. Many of those customers rarely have the opportunity to learn more about the virtual branch. For banks interested in saving money by closing and downsizing physical bank locations, there may be no better solution available than actually equipping those physical branches with virtual bank capability. That way, they have a fighting chance to reach even the most traditional customers.
Let’s see it work in practice.
The synergy of the virtual and physical branches – for convenience and education
In what situations may combining the virtual branch with the physical branch prove worthwhile?
- When the physical branch is really busy – a customer, when faced with the prospect of standing in line for a long time, may be inclined to use a VTM machine (one that offers all standard banking functionalities, including video conversations and a printer – see a LiveBank-enabled implementation in the Piraeus Bank of this concept as well as the Piraeus virtual bank branch itself). Another option is a tablet made available specifically for the purpose of talking to an advisor. The customer can remotely verify their identity using biometric data (learn more about the eKYC or digital onboarding process) in order to authorize transactions and other operations during a conversation with the advisor. Once the customer gets familiar with this form of banking, they may decide to use it again in the future – without ever going out of their house.
- When the physical branch lacks proper experts – a customer walks into a physical bank branch in order to learn more about their mortgage loan deals. Unfortunately, this particular location lacks adequate personnel. With the virtual bank branch, they can still talk to the right person by holding a remote video conversation with an external advisor. Thanks to that, they will not leave the place disappointed.
- When the advisor wants to schedule a video meeting – there is no need for the customer to return to the physical location and since there is no commuting involved, the probability that the meeting will be postponed is significantly decreased.
It is evident by now that the virtual bank branch placed within the physical one can be very useful for customers. They gain easy access to all the knowledge they need to do their banking. Banks, on the other hand, can appreciate the virtual branch as a workload reliever for physical locations. At the same time, they can serve more customers, increase sales and further the goal of educating their customers about the advantages of virtual banking. Some of those customers may soon move nearly all of their banking activities to the virtual world.
Is it only the beginning?
Of course, the combination of the virtual and physical branches is merely the beginning of a huge digital transformation of the banking sector. As a result, the virtual branch may eventually become the dominant form of retail banking. We will inevitably see more and more financial organizations that have no brick-and-mortar presence at all. One thing is for sure – the market will decide the direction. And it seems to be quite fond of innovations that quickly deliver on their promises.
And are you ready for the virtual bank branch?
 Role of Video in Transforming Retail Banking and Wealth Management, Cisco