It’s refreshing to hear the news today that not only is Nottingham Building Society adding seven new branches to its portfolio in 2017 (ex Norwich and Peterborough Building Society) but also that it has doubled its branch network over the past five years.
The mutual is amongst only a small number of providers bucking the trend when it comes to assessing the value of an expanding branch network.
By delivering something different to the vanilla service offered by high street banking giants The Nottingham is able to offer a service that’s commercially viable whilst also providing a shot in the arm for local communities.
Digital banking may be the future and a cheaper operating channel but many people still value face to face contact and personal reassurance, particularly when it comes to dealing with complex financial matters such as arranging a mortgage.
While the established banking names continue to trim the size of their branch networks, innovators such as The Nottingham, Handelsbanken and Metro Bank still see the branch as a key part of their customer offering.
Handelsbanken has opened more than 180 branches in the last decade; Nottingham has doubled its branch presence to 67 offices in the last five years whilst Metro Bank has opened 51 branches since first launch in 2010 with up to 250 on the cards as a longer term target
A combination of a smart digital service backed up by a face to face option is a model that’s working for these players – each is offering the customer something a bit more than the norm.
The differentiators can vary – The Nottingham offers a one stop shop for whole of market mortgage searches plus an in house estate agency, Handelsbanken offers a local business banking expertise with flexibility to offer tailor made solutions and Metro Bank stands out by offering a 7 day per week service, instant debit card printing and safety deposit boxes as part of its highly customer centric strategy.
Branch closures can have a devastating knock on effect on our high streets and local communities as the closure of a branch means fewer visitors and less money being spent in the area.
We are quick to criticize big banks for the seemingly never ending programme of closures however even though post offices now offer a counter service to most bank customers, it’s too soon to write off the value of face to face banking.
This certainly rings true for many elderly UK consumers who are not comfortable using online channels due to a lack of understanding and/or an element of mistrust and apprehension due to the rise in cybercrime, phishing and financial scams.
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