Warc Blog

US banks focus on digital

28 January 2013
NEW YORK: Rising interest in digital services and growing regulatory pressures are causing a major rethink in strategy among US retail banks, many of which are closing branches and expanding online.

According to SNL Financial, the business intelligence provider, some 2,267 bank branches were shut in 2012, when 1,149 began trading, leaving a negative net balance of 1,118 closures, CNN reported.

One reason for this shift is the rising number of people using new media channels to manage their finances. Bank of America, for example, has 30m active web customers, from a clientele of 55m consumers and small businesses.

SNL Financial reported that Bank of America closed 244 branches in net terms last year, as part of an approach attempting to match evolving customer needs.

"We continue to optimise our service network, our branch network as online and mobile banking numbers continue to increase. We're now averaging about 10,000 new mobile subscribers a day," Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America said this month.

Indeed, Forrester, the research group, has predicted 61m people will use mobile banking tools in the US in 2013, compared with an estimated 47m in 2012. This audience was pegged to hit 108m in 2017.

Nancy Bush, a bank analyst at SNL Financial, argued such trends were gaining ground. "You're just not going to have a branch on every corner anymore from here on out," she said.

Elsewhere, Wells Fargo's branch network shrunk by a total of 61 outlets in 2012, with the Royal Bank of Scotland on 59 and PNC on 50.

M&T Bank posted a score of 48 on this metric, while Capital One registered some 39 closures overall, the study added.

Many closures are taking place in major cities where consumers have access to a large number of branches and are increasingly using the internet to fulfil basic tasks.

"We will never have a branch-free banking industry, it's just that they're going to be more concentrated and less present in non-urban markets," said Bush. 

Alongside changing consumer habits, the legal pressures facing banks are also posing considerable challenges, Bush suggested.

"All the costs of regulation are pressing on banking as a whole, and with a low interest rate environment it's harder and harder to make money," she said. "They have to look for a way to offset that."

Data sourced from CNN; additional content by Warc staff

 
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