Reshaping Retail Banking After COVID-19

Since March COVID-19 restrictions have changed our way of life; how we communicate with each other, how we shop, and how we manage our finances.

Branches across the country closed due to the pandemic and the retail banking sector was forced to figure out new methods to serve their clients. Adjustments to digital platforms and investments in fintech have allowed banks to facilitate the financial needs of society.

Most of the big banks such as RBC, TD, Scotia, and BMO have been particularly successful in dealing with lockdown measures but clients are beginning to wonder about whether retail banking will be the same post-pandemic.

With the realization that face-to-face interaction may not be as necessary for the retail banking space, branches have remodeled their infrastructure to easily facilitate those with basic financial needs through the use of comprehensive digital platforms.

Banks will have to continuously work hard to provide quality online customer assistance moving forward. Over the phone consultations and video conferencing calls have been normalized but clients with tricky financial issues may prefer to go to a branch to sort things out in person.

Since customers have less communication with retail bankers it is up to each bank to train their employees on bridging the gap between what products and services are offered, how customers can access them, and why it would be beneficial to their overall financial picture.

As new products fill bank shelves it will be the responsibility of each branch to make application processes visible, transparent, and readily available.

Accenture reported that “trust is central to strong banking relationships and is built through personalization, consistent service delivery, the security of data and assets, and the ability to support customers at key moments in their lives.”

The second wave of the pandemic has caused several major cities to tighten lockdown restrictions which could lead to even more importance being placed on the technology moving into 2021. Banks should be focusing on how to make online customer experiences more personal, updating software’s monthly and training bankers on how to use new digital platforms so clients have easy access to support when facing complex financial issues.

Some banks were already moving towards trends of technology reliance but many processes were fast-tracked over the previous months leading to gaps in training retail bankers about remote work and how to help clients use updated platforms.

In the recent EY Future Consumer Index, Jan Bellens the EY Global Banking and Capital Markets Sector leader wrote that “forty-three percent of respondents say the way the bank has changed due to COVID-19. This is perhaps unsurprising since lockdowns have limited the choice of physical channels, with around two-thirds saying they are visiting physical stores less.”

24% of respondents expect banks to operate more digitally in the next 12-24 months and 16% said there will be long term changes in the way they bank due to the pandemic.

The reputation of financial institutions is also at risk, with only 17% of respondents saying they trust their banks during times of crisis. Trust forages when a financial institution shows its clients that having transparency and support are top priorities during challenging times.

“Banks are on the front line, supporting their customers through the crisis, both in their role transmitting government stimulus measures, offering forbearance and emergency funding to clients, and donating to relief efforts.”

Clients are looking for stability and security when dealing with their finances during this period of economic and social unrest. Emotions are heightened when a crisis like COVID-19 causes financial stress which is why moving into the new year it is crucial for banks to maintain a sense of community and empathy.

By Surina Nath