THE FADING OF HIGH STREET FINANCE


FINANCE FADES ON THE HIGH STREET

This quote in a recent Guardian article, by money editor Patrick Collinson, highlights one reason why traditional bank branches are vanishing from our high streets.

"I'm the money editor of The Guardian, but have not made a single visit to my bank this year," he points out. Some of his team had, but only a couple of times, and just to deposit a cheque – one of the few things that still requires a physical element to a transaction (notably, they considered the whole experience "a bit of a faff.")

It's a very stark illustration; our finance management nowadays simply no longer includes "just popping to the bank."

This a trend that's only heading one way. As recently as 2011, it's been suggested there were nearly 500 million customer 'interactions' within a single bank branch. But many believe this figure had fallen by roughly half come 2016. 

It seems the advent of internet banking has achieved what the arrival of the ATM only hinted at – the terminal decline of 'physical' banking.

This has brought new challenges however. Many elderly folks aren't online. Even the relatively small number who do own a computer or smart device, and are connected online, find using them unfamiliar, and inappropriate for the important task of financial management.

Many are also concerned that while the ability to manage money online is a fantastically convenient way to deal with the vast majority of your financial life, larger decisions, such as mortgages, pension advice and personal loans, feel intimidating and complex without being able to access the opinions of a third party expert in a meaningful conversation. 

This, coupled with the eye-rolling and teeth-grinding associated with the dreaded call centre experience, means many find online banking doesn't fully cover all the interactions they need.

The high street is changing, and there isn't much nostalgia on behalf of customers or desire by the banks for a return to the branch presence of a decade ago. Online banking has liberated customers, who now manage their money conveniently, 24/7. But it's an incomplete solution. 

Your bank may not be on the high street anymore. But it's still a key factor in how you manage your life. It's when banks start to make their expertise available in a similarly convenient and flexible way that we can say the next phase of consumer financial management has arrived. 

But we still haven't solved what you're going to do with that cheque.

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