NEW YORK: Most North American bank customers don't envisage ceasing to use branch outlets any time soon but almost half are open to getting "robo-advice" on banking services, a new study has found.

Consulting firm Accenture surveyed more than 4,000 retail bank customers in the US and Canada as part of its ongoing research into consumer banking attitudes and behaviours and reported that 46% would be happy to accept computer-generated advice and services, independent of a human advisor.

The most popular subjects where this was seen as acceptable were in determining how to allocate investments (79%), which type of bank account to open (74%) and retirement planning (69%).

And the benefits anticipated by customers included speed and convenience (50%) and lower costs (29%), with millennials and mass-affluent consumers expressing the most interest in the service.

"It's well-known that robo-advice is gaining significant traction in the wealth management industry; however, our research shows this trend is also picking up in retail banking," said David Edmondson, senior managing director of Accenture's North America Banking practice.

"Consumers will continue to dictate how, when and where they want to interact, and banks have an opportunity to use intelligent automation and robotics to simplify and improve the customer experience," he added.

"Successful banks will strike the right balance between human and machine interaction to elevate their role in customers' lives beyond simple transactions and become a go-to resource."

The vast majority (87%) indicated they will continue to use the branch in the future. Respondents said they anticipated using the branch two years from now because "I trust my bank more when speaking to someone in person" (49%), and "I receive more value from my bank when speaking to someone in person" (47%).

The survey also found that nearly one quarter of North American consumers would consider switching to a branchless bank, but the local branch remains popular: one fourth of survey respondents used the branch at least weekly, and it remains the second most preferred channel, after online.

"Even as consumers indicate interest in robo-advice and online banking, they continue to demand human interaction at the branch to handle more complex banking needs," Edmondson noted.

"Banks need to find ways to blend the digital and branch experiences to provide more value-added services to their clients, and move past their role as a transactional service provider."

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff